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Nuclear Nonproliferation

Arms Control Association Welcomes Obama’s Decision to Visit Hiroshima



Today the White House announced that on May 27 President Barack Obama will become the first serving U.S. president to visit Hiroshima and its Peace Memorial Park, which honors the victims of the world’s first atomic bombings seventy years ago.


Urges Concrete Steps Toward Nuclear Weapons Free World

For Immediate Release: May 10, 2016

Media Contacts: Daryl G. Kimball, executive director, 202-463-8270 ext. 107

(Washington, D.C.)—Today the White House announced that on May 27 President Barack Obama will become the first serving U.S. president to visit Hiroshima and its Peace Memorial Park, which honors the victims of the world’s first atomic bombings seventy years ago.

In an announcement of the visit, Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes wrote that the president will “reaffirm America’s longstanding commitment — and the President’s personal commitment — to pursue the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons,” and “offer a forward-looking vision focused on our shared future.”

“We applaud President Obama's decision to visit Hiroshima, in part to recognize the innocent victims of war and, in particular, the experience and work of atomic bomb survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki—the hibakusha—who have worked tirelessly to remind the world why nuclear weapons must never be used again,” said Daryl G. Kimball, executive director of the independent, non-partisan Arms Control Association.

“Just as importantly, he should use the opportunity to map out concrete actions the United States and other countries can and will pursue to move closer to a world free of nuclear weapons,” said Kimball, who visited Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August of last year.

“With just months remaining, Obama can still make a positive impact but only if he is more creative and is prepared to provide bolder leadership,” Kimball wrote in an editorial earlier this month, which describes key steps the president could announce.

As President Obama winds up his time in office, tensions with Russia are high, and further nuclear arms talks are on hold; no multilateral disarmament talks are underway; the door to further nuclear testing remains open; and a new technological arms race involving the world’s nuclear-armed states is underway

“Obama’s visit to Japan represents one of his last and best opportunities to take steps necessary to head off a new phase of global arms competition and establish a more meaningful legacy on nuclear disarmament,” according to Kimball.

Ten days after President Obama’s visit to Japan, on June 6, the Arms Control Association’s Annual Meeting will feature as keynote speakers Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes and one of the most prominent and active Hiroshima survivors, Setsuko Thurlow. Details are online 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.

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Posted: May 10, 2016

Obama Hails Nuclear Security Milestone

A key nuclear security treaty achieved enough support to enter into force, President Barack Obama announced at the fourth nuclear security summit. 

May 2016

By Kelsey Davenport

An amended treaty setting standards for nuclear security received enough ratifications to enter into force, President Barack Obama announced at the fourth meeting of world leaders on nuclear security in Washington last month. 

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) confirmed the announcement on April 8, when Nicaragua became the 102nd state-party to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material (CPPNM) to deposit its instrument of ratification for the 2005 amendment to the treaty. 

Two-thirds of the states-parties to the original CPPNM must complete the ratification process for a proposed amendment to be approved and take effect. The newly approved amendment will enter into force May 8.

The CPPNM amendment expands the original treaty to require parties not only to protect nuclear material in international transit, but also to protect nuclear facilities and nuclear material that is in domestic storage, use, or transit. 

In an April 1 press briefing at the end of the two-day summit, Obama said that entry into force of this treaty will provide “more tools” in the event of the theft of nuclear materials or an attack on a nuclear facility. 

Since Obama hosted the first summit focused on preventing nuclear terrorism and securing nonmilitary nuclear materials in 2010, entry into force of the 2005 amendment to the CPPNM has been a key priority. After the initial call for ratification at the 2010 summit in Washington, it was reiterated at the subsequent gatherings in Seoul in 2012 and The Hague in 2014. At the 2012 summit, leaders set the goal of entry into force by the end of 2014. 

Several summit participants completed ratification of the amended treaty in the weeks leading up to the meeting, including Azerbaijan, New Zealand, and Pakistan. The United States, after committing to ratify the amended treaty at the 2010 summit, completed the process last July. 

IAEA Director-General Yukiya Amano said on April 8 that entry into force will “increase international cooperation in locating and recovering stolen or smuggled nuclear material.”

National Commitments

Over the course of the six-year summit process, countries made more than 260 specific commitments to improve nuclear security, Obama said in his April 1 remarks. 

Beginning with the 2010 summit, each country was encouraged to make specific commitments to enhance nuclear security at each subsequent summit. Beginning in 2012, countries could also make commitments in coordination with other countries in the form of joint statements (see box below).

In addition to the elimination and consolidation of weapons-usable nuclear material, Obama noted that the summit commitments included state actions to improve nuclear security by strengthening regulations and physical security of nuclear facilities and multilateral cooperation to prevent nuclear smuggling.

A European official at the summit said on April 14 that some of the “more notable accomplishments” at this summit came from China and India, countries that have stockpiles of weapons-usable materials for civilian uses.

The official said these countries “finally stepped up” and joined one of the major multilateral initiatives to emerge from the summit process.

A 2014 joint statement committed subscribing states to meet the intent of the IAEA’s voluntary guidelines on nuclear security in their domestic laws and regulations. China and India did not sign the joint statement in 2014, but committed to it at this year’s summit.

An official from an Asian country pointed to an increased number of peer reviews as an important accomplishment of the summit process. He said that the summit process “transformed” the IAEA International Physical Protection Advisory Service (IPPAS) from “a practice for states with security concerns to an accepted best practice.”

More than 20 countries, including China, France, Indonesia, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States, requested IPPAS missions over the course of the summit.

The Asian country official said that the summit process could have done more to encourage states to examine protections against cyberattacks or sabotage, which he identified as growing threats that “many countries are not prepared to combat.”

The UK did offer a joint statement on enhancing cybersecurity at nuclear facilities. It includes holding workshops to address areas at risk from cyberattacks and reporting to the IAEA on the progress made to address these threats. Twenty-eight countries signed on to the statement. 

Material Removals

One of the initial goals for the summit process that Obama announced in April 2009 in Prague was to “lock down” weapons-usable nuclear material in the civilian sector. When the summits began in April 2010, 32 countries possessed weapons-usable materials. By April 2016, that number had dropped to 22 countries. 

Obama said in his April 1 press conference that, over the course of the summit process, “more than 3.8 tons” of highly enriched uranium (HEU) and plutonium has been removed or secured. That is “more than enough to create 150 nuclear weapons,” he said. 

Notable Joint Statements from the 2016 Summit

When 52 countries met for the fourth nuclear security summit in Washington from March 31 to April 1, they had the opportunity to sign on to multilateral joint statements that targeted particular areas of nuclear security. These joint statements, or “gift baskets,” are voluntary commitments. More than a dozen new joint statements were offered at the summit. Some of the more important ones are summarized below.

Consolidated Reporting

Seventeen countries, led by the Netherlands, subscribed to a joint statement that integrates reporting requirements under treaties and other international instruments into a single consolidated national nuclear security reporting form. The form includes relevant requirements under the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material and UN Security Council Resolution 1540, which requires states to provide information on steps taken to put in place export controls and nuclear security measures. It also allows for the voluntary provision of additional information on domestic measures taken to enhance nuclear security. Subscribing states support the use of the model reporting form.


Twenty-eight countries signed on to a joint statement, led by the United Kingdom, that commits them to ensuring adequate cybersecurity at industrial control and plant systems at nuclear facilities. The statement includes plans for international workshops on threats, vulnerabilities, and incidents that can affect control systems.

Mitigation of Insider Threats

Twenty-seven countries committed to establishing and implementing national-level measures to mitigate insider threats. The measures outlined in the joint statement include implementing national-level policies on this issue, establishing trustworthiness programs, and developing a nuclear security regime for the protection of materials and facilities from insider activities. States also committed to supporting an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) training course on measures to prevent and protect against insider threats.

Preparedness and Response

Capabilities South Korea led 24 countries in supporting a joint statement in which they pledge to consider developing certain capabilities, such as establishing and maintaining national preparedness and response plans. The statement commits subscribing states to supporting international best practices on preparedness and sharing technical capabilities. The statement encourages national tabletop simulation exercises to ensure preparedness for and responses to incidents of nuclear or radiological terrorism.

National Nuclear Detection Architecture

Finland led 23 countries in a joint statement that commits the subscribing states to supporting and implementing the IAEA’s recommendations on nuclear detection and creation of national comprehensive and integrated nuclear detection strategies. Countries also pledged to share best practices and work on integrating border and interior detection capabilities.

    At the recent summit, Argentina announced that it had gotten rid of its remaining HEU, joining more than a dozen countries that removed all weapons-usable material over the course of the summit process. 

    With the elimination of Argentina’s remaining stockpile, South America is free of weapons-usable materials. 

    Indonesia committed at the summit to eliminate its remaining stockpile of HEU by this September, and Poland is scheduled to complete removal of its remaining stockpile before the end of the year. 

    While acknowledging that minimizing the number of countries with weapons-usable nuclear materials is significant, the European official said these efforts are “just a drop in the bucket” in comparison to the stockpiles of materials in the military sector.

    According to a January report from the nongovernmental Nuclear Threat Initiative, 83 percent of weapons-usable material is in military stockpiles. Military stockpiles were not targeted as part of the summit process. 

    During the summit, however, the United States released information on the security of its military stockpiles. A White House summary document released at the summit provided some details on U.S. security for these materials, which includes steps such as personnel reliability programs and physical protection measures that meet or exceed IAEA recommendations for storage of nuclear materials.

    In another step toward greater openness, Washington publicly released data on the size of its HEU stockpiles for the first time in 15 years. According to a White House press release on March 31, the United States had 586 metric tons of military and civilian HEU as of September 2013. The United States held 740 metric tons in 1996, according to the release.

    The European official said that Washington’s announcement of its stockpile size was a “positive step toward greater transparency” that he hoped would encourage similar steps from countries such as China and Russia. 

    The official also applauded Washington’s decision to explore using low-enriched uranium (LEU) fuel for naval reactors, which was announced at the summit. Currently, naval nuclear reactors for U.S. Navy ships and submarines use HEU. 

    Some countries, such as France, already produce submarines that use LEU.

    Posted: April 27, 2016

    Summit Looks Ahead Amid Concerns

    National leaders last month endorsed action plans for five key institutions and initiatives to carry on parts of the nuclear security summit agenda.

    May 2016

    By Kingston Reif and Daniel Horner

    The more than 50 national leaders who attended the recent nuclear security summit in Washington endorsed action plans for five key institutions and initiatives to carry on parts of the summit agenda amid concerns from some observers that momentum on this agenda will fade now that the summit process has ended. 

    In an April 1 press conference at the end of the two-day summit, President Barack Obama said that “one of the central goals of this summit was how do we build on the work that has been done so that we have an international architecture that can continue the efforts, even though this is the last formal leaders’ summit.”

    The meeting was the fourth and final biennial summit on nuclear security since Obama hosted the first one in April 2010 as part of an accelerated effort to prevent nuclear terrorism and secure civilian nuclear material worldwide. Subsequent summits took place in Seoul in 2012 and The Hague in 2014.

    The summit participants, comprising 52 countries and four international organizations, issued a consensus communiqué expressing their “collective determination to ensure political momentum and to continuously strengthen nuclear security at national, regional, and global levels.”

    To do that, the summit created action plans to highlight and augment the nuclear security roles of the United Nations, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Interpol, the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism (GICNT), and the Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction. 

    In addition, 29 summit countries signed a joint statement creating the Nuclear Security Contact Group. The group, which will consist of an “informed senior official or officials” from each of the participating countries, is tasked with convening annually on the margins of the IAEA General Conference with the goal of keeping senior officials focused on nuclear security and advancing commitments made at the summits. 

    Some nuclear security experts warned that these efforts would not be enough to sustain the high-level attention necessary to further improve global nuclear material security in the future.

    Matthew Bunn, a professor of practice at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, said in an April 4 article published on the website of the school’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs that the communiqué offered “no firm new nuclear security commitments.”

    Bunn, a member of the Arms Control Association Board of Directors, added that the action plans for the five international institutions provided “few steps beyond what those institutions are already doing—certainly less than is needed to fill the gap left by the end of the summit process.” 

    In a commentary published on the website of the European Leadership Network, Miles Pomper, a senior fellow at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, said the end of the summit process “threatens to downgrade the issue from one of high politics to a technical concern that receives insufficient attention—until or unless there is a terrorist attack that uses such materials.”

    Central Role for IAEA

    The text of the action plan for the IAEA stressed the central importance of the agency in strengthening global nuclear security in the aftermath of the summits and the need to buttress the agency’s nuclear security role and capabilities. 

    In particular, the plan expressed strong support for the agency’s convening of a regular, triennial nuclear security meeting “to promote political commitment, enhance awareness and keep momentum on strengthening the global nuclear security architecture.”

    The IAEA held the first such meeting in July 2013. The second is scheduled for December 2016.

    The plan also calls on summit participants to provide “reliable and sufficient resources” for the agency and to use “information sharing mechanisms managed by the IAEA to build domestic, regional and international confidence in the effectiveness of national nuclear security regimes.”

    In addition, states are encouraged to collaborate with the IAEA “to raise awareness of the threat of cyber attacks with potential impacts on nuclear security.” The plan recommends that the agency “develop a methodology for states to report cyber or computer security attacks.”

    Trevor Findlay, an associate of the Belfer Center’s Project on Managing the Atom, said in an April 8 blog post published on the center’s website that the essential role given to the IAEA is noteworthy given “years of speculation as to whether and to what extent the Agency could or should take on the summits’ innovative, high-level approach and activities.”

    But he said the action plan “is more wish list than action plan.” Findlay added that the plan provides no new authorities or funding to the IAEA and missed an opportunity to propose that the agency’s voluntary recommendations on the security of nuclear and radiological materials ultimately evolve into legally binding standards. 

    Russian Objections

    With the exception of Russia, all of the countries from the 2014 summit attended in 2016. Russia announced in late 2014 that it would not attend the Washington meeting. (See ACT, December 2014.)

    At an April 7 event in St. Petersburg, Russian President Vladimir Putin said a main reason he decided not to attend was because Russia was invited to participate in the drafting of only one of the five action plans in the preparatory process leading up to the gathering. 

    “[A] big nuclear power like Russia cannot take part in an event such as this and not have the possibility to influence the drafting of the final resolutions,” Putin said.

    Russia remains a co-chair with the United States of the GICNT, a voluntary organization launched in 2006 to strengthen global abilities to prevent and respond to acts of nuclear terrorism. (See ACT, March 2016.)  The action plan for the GICNT emphasizes buttressing the national capacity of partner states in nuclear security, particularly in the areas of nuclear detection, forensics, and response.  

    In addition to not participating in the 2016 summit, Russia decided in late 2014 to end most nuclear security cooperation with the United States. (See ACT, March 2015.)

    In his article, Bunn said Washington should “put high priority on rebuilding nuclear security cooperation with Russia, on a different, more equal model.” 

    Given the threat posed by the Islamic State and the large stockpiles of nuclear weapons and material in Russia and the United States, cooperation between the two countries is essential, he said.

    Legal Standards 

    One of the most noteworthy achievements of the final summit was the announcement that the 2005 amendment to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material (CPPNM) received the necessary ratifications to enter into force. (See ACT, May 2016.)

    The CPPNM amendment expands the original treaty to require parties not only to protect nuclear material in international transit, but also to protect nuclear facilities and nuclear material that is in domestic storage, use, or transit.

    Some observers advocate negotiating more-comprehensive binding standards for securing nuclear and other radioactive material based on the IAEA’s currently voluntary guidance on nuclear security and creating a process to assess implementation and review those standards. 

    But in an email to Arms Control Today during the run-up to the summit, a senior White House official observed that it has taken more than 10 years to bring the CPPNM amendment into force and that only a fraction of IAEA member states have endorsed a document originating at the 2014 summit in which countries committed themselves to meet the intent of the IAEA’s voluntary guidelines in their domestic laws and regulations. That track record indicates that “there is not adequate support within the IAEA to create legally binding standards at this time,” the official said in the Feb. 12 email. 

    In remarks on March 30 at a high-level nuclear industry gathering held in conjunction with the governmental security summit, John Barrett, president and CEO of the Canadian Nuclear Association, said mandatory standards might be “too much too soon.” In the remarks and an interview afterward, he said binding standards might take some time to develop, as they often do not comport with the existing legal regimes in some countries.

    At least at first, the industry might take an approach of forming “coalitions of the willing,” in which some companies jointly agree to accept certain higher standards, he said. A slightly different approach would be to establish industry benchmarks or approved best practices, he said.

    In all of those cases, Barrett emphasized, companies not following the model should have to be able to answer the question, “If not that, then what are you doing” to achieve the same goal by different means?

    As part of a report for the industry meeting, a working group chaired by Barrett produced a “governance template” that poses a series of questions for organizations that are responsible for the security of nuclear and radiological materials. One question in the template asks how the organization’s board of directors carries out “effective governance and oversight” of the organization’s nuclear security program. It observes that boards of directors “are usually required by law to oversee risk, including security,” and asks, “Does your Board have a mechanism to review security policy and performance? If not, why not?”

    In a presentation at the March 30 session of the industry meeting, Roger Howsley, executive director of the World Institute for Nuclear Security, said that a goal for nuclear organizations is that they increasingly see nuclear security “as a strategic issue…rather than a regulatory burden.”

    Howsley elaborated in an April 14 email to Arms Control Today, saying that the organizations’ governing bodies should “really believe that the nuclear security arrangements for which they are responsible are key to business success and take a view on the risk and associated security measures, rather than just complying with security regulations on a compliance basis.”

    Posted: April 27, 2016

    Kerry, G7 Ministers Visit A-Bomb Site

    During a visit to Hiroshima last month, John Kerry became the first sitting U.S. secretary of state to visit the site of the atomic bombing in the Japanese city. 

    May 2016

    By Daryl G. Kimball

    During a visit to Hiroshima last month for a meeting of foreign ministers from the Group of Seven (G7) industrialized countries, John Kerry became the first sitting U.S. secretary of state to visit the site of the atomic bombing in the Japanese city. 

    After Kerry and Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida toured the Peace Memorial Museum on April 11, the two men were joined by the foreign ministers of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom, and the European Union at the cenotaph in Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park to offer wreaths in honor of the people who died on Aug. 6, 1945, and in the years afterward.

    In remarks following the visit, Kerry said, “Going through the museum was a reminder of the indisputable truth that war must never be the first resort.”

    “What I got here was a firsthand sense of what happened in Hiroshima and what happens with a nuclear weapon, particularly in terms of its types of destruction,” Kerry said at an April 11 press briefing. “So for me, today really was…a moment of connecting to this place and to the feelings of the Japanese people and the terrible events of that day in a very personal and special way.”

    An estimated 240,000 people died by 1950 as a consequence of the U.S. atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945.

    At the briefing, Kerry said that “the reason I thought that it was particularly important to come to Hiroshima and to come now was not just that Fumio Kishida and I work together and are friends and this is his home community and we have a G7 meeting here, but because we are engaged in this effort to try to reduce the threat of nuclear weapons and because we are trying to remind people of the power of reconciliation.”

    Kerry added, “Everyone should visit Hiroshima, and ‘everyone’ means everyone. So I hope one day the president of the United States will be among the everyone who is able to come here.” President Barack Obama is scheduled to attend the G7 summit that will be held May 26-27 in Japan’s Mie prefecture. 

    No sitting U.S. president or vice president has ever visited Hiroshima. While serving as speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) visited the Hiroshima memorial site in September 2008.

    The seven foreign ministers also issued a two-page joint declaration on nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation. The document reaffirmed their “commitment to seeking a safer world for all and to creating the conditions for a world without nuclear weapons in a way that promotes international stability.”

    The ministers declared, “No state should conduct a nuclear test explosion and all states should sign the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty without delay and without conditions.” They urged “all states to work with us on practical and realistic initiatives that can promote meaningful dialogue on nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation among all.” 

    In the document, the ministers urged other political leaders to visit the sites of the two atomic bombings and concluded, “We share the deep desire of the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki that nuclear weapons never be used again.”

    Posted: April 27, 2016

    The P5+1 and Iran Nuclear Deal Alert, April 27

    Kerry and Zarif Discuss Sanctions and Heavy Water U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in New York on April 22 to discuss implementation of last July’s nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action . The meeting was the second for Kerry and Zarif in a week, and took place amidst concerns from Iranian officials that the United States has not met its sanctions-relief obligations under the deal, despite Iran implementing required restrictions on its nuclear program. Valiollah Seif, head of Iran’s Central Bank, said at the...

    Statement by Daryl G. Kimball on Challenges on Disarmament and Opportunities for Progress



    Under Article VI of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), each of the parties, including the nuclear-weapon-state parties...


    Political and Security Challenges on Disarmament
    and Opportunities to Achieve Progress 

    Daryl G. Kimball, Executive Director, Arms Control Association
    Framework Forum Roundtable organized by the
    Canadian Mission, the Middle Powers Initiative, and Friedrich-Ebert Stiftung 

    Mission of the Government of Canada in Geneva, April 18, 2016

    Under Article VI of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), each of the parties, including the nuclear-weapon-state parties, “undertakes to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament.”

    In its 1996 advisory opinion, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) found that the threat and use of nuclear weapons was generally illegal, but it could not decide whether this illegality applied “in an extreme circumstance of self-defense in which the very survival of a State would be at stake.” Three judges dissented from that ruling, arguing that nuclear weapons were illegal in all circumstances. In its 1996 opinion, the ICJ also concluded unanimously that the disarmament obligation is not limited to NPT parties.

    But today, and contrary to these legal obligations, progress on nuclear disarmament is at a standstill, and the risk of unbridled nuclear competition is growing.1

    U.S. MX missile re-entry vehicles being tested at Kwajalein Atoll. Each line represents the potential explosive power of about 300 kilotons of TNT. All nine of the world's nuclear weapon states are replacing or upgrading their nuclear weapons strike capabilities. (Photo courtesy of Department of Defense.)As the delegations here at the Conference on Disarmament (CD) and the Open-Ended Working Group (OEWG) on Disarmament realize, there are still no legally-binding restrictions on the nuclear buildups of world’s four non-NPT nuclear-armed states, and are currently no active bilateral or multilateral negotiations to further regulate, cap, or reduce the stockpiles of any of the world’s five original nuclear-armed states.

    Worse still, key treaties like the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) have not yet entered into force due to political divisions in Washington and inaction by seven other Annex 2 states, leaving the door to renewed nuclear weapons testing ajar twenty years after the Conference on Disarmament completed its negotiation and the treaty was opened for signature.

    In addition to the tensions between key nuclear-armed states, the biggest challenge to the disarmament enterprise is the fact that all of the world’s nine nuclear-weapon states are, to varying degrees or another, devoting vast sums of money to modernize, upgrade, and in some cases expand the size and lethality of their nuclear arsenals and delivery systems.

    As Hans Kristensen of the Federation of American Scientists wrote in in 20142, the numerical nuclear arms race between the United States and Russia may be over; but elsewhere, “a dynamic technological nuclear arms race is in full swing and may increase over the next decade.”

    Although there is abundant evidence that even a “limited” exchange of nuclear weapons would result in a catastrophic humanitarian catastrophe—and in the view of many would violate the principles contained in the Law of War and be contrary to widespread interpretations of International Humanitarian Law—each of the nuclear-armed states continue to reaffirm the importance of such weapons for their security and maintain plans for the use of these weapons in a conflict.

    U.S.-Russian Tensions

    Undoubtedly, renewed tensions between Moscow and Washington are blocking progress on nuclear disarmament. The United States and Russia have a special responsibility to provide leadership to further reduce the role and number of nuclear weapons, but they are not doing so.

    Although the number of nuclear weapons is down from its Cold War peak, the United States and Russia deploy far more nuclear weapons—some 1,800 each—than necessary for nuclear deterrence purposes. As President Barack Obama correctly noted in a speech in 2012, “we have more nuclear weapons than we need.”

    Yet progress on further nuclear cuts is on hold. As President Obama recently acknowledged and the Russian [Ministry of Foreign Affairs] MFA confirmed, new negotiations on further nuclear disarmament beyond [the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty] New START are unlikely any time soon.

    Russian leaders cite concerns about limited but unconstrained U.S. ballistic missile interceptors, NATO conventional military capabilities, and third-country nuclear arsenals, as reason for rejecting the June 2013 U.S. proposal for a further one-third reduction in each side’s strategic nuclear forces. But Russia has failed to put forward a counterproposal and has rejected U.S. offers to discuss the full range of strategic issues.

    Complicating matters, Russia also has tested ground-based cruise missiles in violation of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. U.S. and Russian officials say they are interested in discussing the issue, but the matter remains unresolved. So long as it does, the prospects for negotiation of a follow-on agreement to New START are low.

    Making matters even worse, Russian officials have begun to highlight their nuclear forces as a deterrent against what they see as increasingly threatening U.S. and NATO conventional military capabilities. Late last year, Russia “leaked” plans for a new nuclear-armed underwater torpedo, implying it is eyeing new types of nuclear weapons.

    Now, in a troubling shift of rhetoric, the Defense Department has unwisely begun to frame its unaffordable, all-of-the-above plan for replacing and upgrading U.S. strategic bombers, nuclear-armed cruise missiles, and land- and sea-based strategic nuclear forces as part of its strategy to “counter Russia’s aggressive policies in Eastern Europe,” according its fiscal year 2017 budget request.

    In reality, U.S. nuclear weapons, including the remaining forward-deployed tactical nuclear weapons are irrelevant to the protection of nervous NATO allies in the Baltics and elsewhere.

    Obama and his successor, along with Russian President Vladimir Putin, have a responsibility to pull back from a nuclear action-reaction cycle that would put both countries at greater risk and block further nuclear reductions for many more years to come.

    Other Nuclear-Armed States

    Meanwhile, as the U.S. and Russian tensions and arsenals attract most international attention, China, India, and Pakistan are all pursuing new ballistic missile, cruise missile, and sea-based nuclear delivery systems3 themselves and increasing the size of their warhead stockpiles or their capacity to produce material to make more weapons.

    Although smaller in number, these arsenals are just as dangerous. Pakistan has lowered the threshold for nuclear weapons use in a potential conflict with India by developing tactical nuclear weapons capabilities to counter perceived Indian conventional military threats.

    Pakistan’s stated concern about India’s larger fissile stocks has led it to block negotiations on a fissile material cut-off treaty, even though the United States has recently opened the possibility of changing the mandate to address fissile stocks4.

    For its part, India says it would support fissile cut-off talks, but it appears to be expanding its fissile material production capacity as the CD remains deadlocked.

    Leaders in Beijing, New Delhi, and Islamabad profess support for nondiscriminatory approaches to disarmament and minimal deterrence, but their programs are moving in the opposite direction and there is little or no dialogue among them, and with others, on nuclear risk reduction options.

    Chinese officials suggest they will not consider limits on their nuclear arsenal unless there are additional, deeper U.S. and Russian nuclear weapons cuts.

    Although North Korea may be under tighter and tighter international sanctions, its nuclear weapons and ballistic programs remain unconstrained. With further nuclear and ballistic missile tests, it will likely have missile-deliverable nuclear warheads.

    Israel’s nuclear opacity and the inability of the Arab League to find a way to agree on an agenda acceptable to Israel for a meeting Middle East Nuclear WMD Free Zone Treaty has frozen discussion of practical measures to reduce nuclear and missile dangers in that region.

    Another challenge is the relatively low-level of public and policy-maker awareness about the dangers of renewed nuclear competition and the consequences of nuclear weapons use is relatively low in the United States—and perhaps elsewhere.

    While there is support among Democrats in Congress for efforts to further cut U.S. and Russian arsenals, there is strong skepticism among Republicans in Congress about any further nuclear reductions, and even though the U.S. Defense Department acknowledges that it cannot afford its costly, all-of-the-above plan to replace each component of the U.S. nuclear arsenal5, for the time being there is bipartisan support for most U.S. nuclear weapons modernization programs.

    Moving Forward

    Obviously, these are very challenging conditions. These difficulties are reflected in the inability to achieve consensus here in Geneva at the CD and in the failure of the nuclear weapon states to meet key 2010 NPT Review Conference commitments and the inability of the states parties at the 2015 NPT Review Conference to agree on an updated action plan on disarmament.

    Frustrated by the slow pace of the so-called “step-by-step approach” to disarmament, many non-nuclear-weapon states have tried to catalyze progress through the humanitarian consequences initiative. The effort has helped raise awareness once again about the unique destructive power of nuclear weapons and the dubious legal and moral basis for their possession and use.

    But that initiative and the open-ended working group to discuss possible measures “to fill the legal gap for the prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons" has not yet produced a unified, realistic diplomatic proposal for halting nuclear competition or starting multilateral disarmament talks.

    There is no substitute for serious dialogue, the political will and support to achieve results, and international and domestic pressure to achieve meaningful results.

    Simply repeating calls for action are not sufficient. Creative, practical ideas are needed to overcome persistent obstacles and new challenges.

    It does not appear to me that there is any one initiative that can overcome these broader systemic challenges that impede progress on disarmament.

    Rather, it will likely take the pursuit of multiple, practical, and sometimes bold, initiatives on the part of responsible leaders and groups of states.

    So, what options might states participating in the OEWG and the CD pursue to jumpstart progress? Allow me to briefly comment on a few that are in circulation here in Vienna and to offer a few others for your consideration.

    • A Ban Treaty
      At the February OEWG discussions some states and civil society campaigners suggested it is time to launch talks on a treaty to ban nuclear weapons possession and use. Such a ban is, in my view, eventually a necessary step toward a world without nuclear weapons.

      But if such a negotiation is launched and concluded, it would not help the nuclear weapon states meet their nuclear disarmament obligations and would not likely do much to change opinion, policies, dangerous nuclear use doctrines, or accelerate progress on the elimination of the nuclear arsenals in the nuclear-armed states.

      This is due in large part to the fact that the nuclear weapons states will simply ignore the process and the results. The key is to draw them in such a way that they are compelled or persuaded to shift their approach and accelerate action toward zero nuclear weapons.
    • Challenge Nuclear Weapons Use and Use Doctrines 
      Another, approach—which would help address the longstanding goal of assuring non-nuclear-weapon states against the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons—would be to pursue the negotiation of a legally-binding instrument banning the use of nuclear weapons.

      Such an instrument would not, as some have suggested, legitimize the possession of nuclear weapons. Even if the nuclear-weapon states do not initially join in the negotiation or sign the instrument, the process itself and the final product could further delegitimize nuclear weapons, strengthen the legal norm against their use, and put pressure on nuclear-armed states to revise their nuclear doctrines.

      Another approach would be to press each of the nuclear-armed states to report, in detail, on the physical, environmental, and human impacts of their nuclear war plans, if these plans were to be carried out, and how they believe the use of hundreds of such weapons would be consistent with humanitarian law and the laws of war as some nuclear-armed states claim6.

      Such a process could force an examination of dangerous nuclear doctrines and focus public attention on the catastrophic consequences of nuclear weapons use.
    • UN Study on Effects of Possible Nuclear Exchanges Between Weapons States
      Part of the OEWG mandate is to make recommendations on “measures to increase awareness and understanding of the complexity of and interrelationship between the wide range of humanitarian consequences that would result from any nuclear detonation.”

      One important way to do so is to launch a UN study on the climate effects and related humanitarian impacts of nuclear weapons use.

      Tremendous advances in climate modeling and research on both the immediate effects and impacts on climate and agriculture from large-scale nuclear weapons use have been completed since the United Nations looked at the issue 25 years ago. It is time for an up-to-date UN study and report on these issues to inform current and future debate and decisions on global nuclear policy.
    • Disarmament Discussions in the CD or Through Another Forum
      Theoretically, the CD can be a forum for a dialogue on disarmament. The United Kingdom has put forward a useful, and wide-ranging proposal for a working group to discuss and identify effective measures on nuclear disarmament7. It would appear to be flexible enough to all states’ interests into account. If states do not burden this proposal with poison pill demands, it could help extend the conversations taking place at the OEWG and engage key nuclear-armed states. If launched, it would be vital for all states to bring forward detailed and considered proposals, not tired talking points.

      Another option would be to initiate a series of high-level summits approach to put the spotlight on the issue and spur new ideas. This would complement the ongoing P5 [China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States] dialogue on nuclear terms and concepts and the humanitarian impacts initiative.

      Leaders from a core group of states could invite their counterparts from a representative group of 20 to 30 nuclear- and non-nuclear-weapon states to join a one- or two-day summit on steps to achieve a world free of nuclear weapons. The high-level meeting could be a starting point for ongoing, regular disarmament discussions at the expert and ministerial levels on the basis of a clear understanding of the devastating impacts of nuclear weapons use and an objective assessment of the security concerns of states.

      Borrowing a concept from the nuclear security summit process, all participants should be encouraged to bring “house gifts”—specific actions by states that would concretely diminish the threat of nuclear weapons use, freeze or reduce the number of nuclear weapons, reduce the role of nuclear weapons, bring into force key agreements such as the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, or make their nuclear programs more transparent.
    • UN Security Council and UN General Assembly Action to Reinforce the Test Ban Pending Entry Into Force
      The CTBT was concluded twenty years ago, yet entry into force is still many years away. It is essential that states that support the norm against nuclear testing support initiatives that raise the political and legal barriers for testing pending entry into force of the CTBT.

      Specifically, we urge you to actively support a non-binding UN Security Council resolution and a parallel UN General Assembly measure later this year that:
    1. Calls on all states to refrain from testing and calls upon those states that have not ratified the CTBT to do so at the earliest possible time;
    2. Declares that the conduct of a nuclear test explosion would defeat the object and purpose of the CTBT;
    3. Underscores the need for a continuous, real-time global nuclear test monitoring capability to detect, identify, and locate nuclear test explosions, and recognizes the vital contributions of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization, including the International Monitoring System and International Data Centre.

      In light of the North Korea’s ongoing nuclear testing, the central importance of the CTBT to the NPT and nonproliferation, and the ongoing efforts by several nuclear-armed states to improve their capabilities, the time is right to take this initiative. The place to begin discussing it is the upcoming June 13 high-level meeting in Vienna on the CTBT.
    • Call for Parallel U.S.-Russian Reductions Without a New Treaty
      In 2010, all of the nuclear-weapon states committed “to accelerate concrete progress on the steps leading to nuclear disarmament,” including “all types of nuclear weapons.”

      Further nuclear reductions need not wait for a new U.S.-Russian arms control treaty. More states need to call upon the United States and Russia to accelerate the pace of reductions under New START to reach the agreed limits before the 2018 deadline and call on both states to continue to reduce force levels below the New START ceilings, to be verified with the treaty’s monitoring regime.
    • New START Follow-On Talks No Later Than 2017
      States can also call upon the leaders in Moscow and Washington to begin formal negotiations on a follow-on to New START, and on other relevant strategic weapons issues, no later than 2017.

      The aim should aim to cut each side’s strategic arsenals to fewer than 1,100 deployed strategic warheads and 500 deployed strategic delivery vehicles, including any strategic-range conventional prompt-strike weapons. Such talks can and should explore a wider range of issues, including transparency and confidence-building steps on tactical nuclear weapons and joint understandings on missile defense capabilities and deployments8. Talks should begin soon and before New START expires in 2021 
    • Reinforce the INF Treaty and Pursue Nuclear-Armed Cruise Missile Limits
      To sustain progress on nuclear disarmament, it is essential to reinforce and expand the INF Treaty. States at the CD and elsewhere need to speak up and call upon the United States and Russia to immediately resolve compliance concerns.

      The United States and other like-minded states could also propose and initiate talks with other states in talks on limiting and eventually phasing out all nuclear-armed cruise missile systems. President Obama could spur progress in this area by cancelling plans for a costly new U.S. air-launched cruise missile, which would have new military capabilities and is destabilizing former U.S. Secretary of Defense William J. Perry and others have proposed9.

      Such an initiative would allow the United States, Russia and other countries to forgo expensive modernization programs for such missiles, and in cooperation with other key states, head off dangerous cruise missile buildups around the globe.
    • Call On Other Nuclear-Armed States to Freeze Their Nuclear Buildups
      The world’s other nuclear-armed states must do their part too.

      In addition to urging the United States, China, and the other CTBT Annex 2 states to finally take the steps necessary to ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, Russia and the world’s other nuclear-armed states should be called upon by all NPT states parties to freeze the overall size of their stockpiles as long as the United States and Russia continue to reduce their nuclear arsenals. 

      A unified push for further U.S.-Russian arms cuts combined with a global nuclear weapons freeze by the other nuclear-armed states would help create the conditions for multilateral, verifiable nuclear disarmament and an eventual ban on nuclear weapons.

    In the coming months and years, creative, bold approaches will be needed to overcome old and new obstacles to the long-running effort to eliminate the potential for nuclear catastrophe.

    1. "Race for Latest Class of Nuclear Arms Threatens to Revive Cold War,” By William J. Broad and David E. Sanger, The New York Times, April 16, 2016

    2. “Nuclear Weapons Modernization: A Threat to the NPT?,” Hans M. Kristensen in Arms Control Today, May 2014.

    3. “India’s Submarine Completes Tests,” Kelsey Davenport, Arms Control Today, April 2016

    4. “U.S. Floats New Fissile Talks Formula, “ Daryl G. Kimball, Arms Control Today, March 2016.

    5. “The U.S. Nuclear Weapons Spending Binge,” by Daryl G. Kimball, Arms Control Today, December 2015

    6. The June 2013 Report on the Nuclear Weapons Employment Strategy of the United States claims that: [t]he new guidance makes clear that all plans must be consistent with the fundamental principles of the Law of Armed Conflict. Accordingly, plans will, for example, apply the principles of distinction and proportionality and seek to minimize collateral damage to civilian populations and civilian objects. The United States will not intentionally target civilian populations or civilian objects.”

    7. Letter dated 19 February from the Permanent Representative of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland to the Conference on Disarmament.

    8. “Second Report of the Deep Cuts Commission: Strengthening Stability in Turbulent Times,” published by the Institute for Peace Research and Security Policy at the University of Hamburg, April 2015.

    9.“Overkill: The Case Against a New Nuclear Air-Launched Cruise Missile” by Kingston Reif, Arms Control Association Issue Brief, October 19, 2015

    Country Resources:

    Posted: April 18, 2016

    A Proliferation Plateau May Offer Unique Opportunities

    The spread of nuclear weapons appears to have reached a plateau, but that pause is likely to be fragile. Now is the time to seize the opportunity to buttress nonproliferation tools against an uncertain future.

    April 2016

    By Leonard S. Spector

    Has the spread of nuclear weapons to new countries reached a plateau? That is how things appear in early 2016 on the basis of publicly available information.

    If North Korea is treated as a nuclear-weapon possessor state, for which the opportunity to prevent proliferation has passed and whose capabilities must be addressed through deterrence and containment, and if Iran’s nuclear potential has been capped for the coming decade at a point well short of nuclear weapons possession, then, using publicly available sources, it is not possible at this moment to identify additional states aspiring to acquire nuclear arms and taking concrete steps to achieve this goal.

    This would be very good news, but if horizontal proliferation may be stabilizing, overall nuclear dangers are far from going on holiday, with arsenals growing in China, India, North Korea, Pakistan, and possibly Israel and tensions growing in a number of potential nuclear hot spots.

    A Plateau…

    A look back at the history of nuclear proliferation reveals that the apparent absence of new aspirants is quite unusual and may be unique. In the early 2000s, for example, Iran, Iraq, and Libya were widely believed to have aspirations for nuclear weapons. Later revelations would indicate that these assessments were correct. Throughout the 1990s, North Korea would also have been on the list of perceived aspirants.

    Nonetheless, if one works through the current list of states that are seen as most likely to be the next proliferators given their strategic environments, none appears to be taking steps in this direction, and all have good reason not to do so.

    Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey are often named in this context as states ready to respond in kind to the Iranian nuclear challenge. Yet, each of them faces obstacles.

    Egypt remains in some political disarray, and its current nuclear program is very limited. Even if a deal signed with Russia in 2015 for Egypt’s first nuclear power plant progresses, it will be a decade or more before the facility comes online. No plans have been announced for the construction of domestic uranium-enrichment or spent fuel reprocessing facilities, which would provide the capability to produce weapons-usable nuclear material, and there have been no published reports of Egyptian advances in this direction.

    Saudi Arabia has only the most rudimentary nuclear infrastructure and has yet to sign a contract for a nuclear power reactor. Analysts often note that, in 2009, King Abdullah warned that if Iran acquired nuclear weapons, “we will get nuclear weapons”; other Saudi officials subsequently made statements to similar effect.1 Yet, these are widely believed to have been rhetorical declarations seeking to add urgency to U.S. and international efforts to curb Iran’s nuclear ambitions rather than announcements marking the launch of a nuclear weapons program.

    Turkey was to begin construction of its first nuclear power plant, supplied by Russia, this year, but Ankara’s downing of a Russian warplane near the Turkish border with Syria in late November 2015 has put this project on hold.2 Construction of a French-supplied nuclear power plant is scheduled to begin in 2017.3 Turkey has not indicated any intention to engage in enrichment or reprocessing activities, and no evidence has surfaced suggesting it is moving in this direction or taking other steps toward nuclear weapons development.

    With the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action between Iran and the P5+1 states (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) now freezing Iran’s nuclear program at a reduced level for the next decade, possible Egyptian, Saudi, and Turkish, motivations to pursue indigenous nuclear deterrents have presumably eased. Another factor reducing such motivations is that all three have close security ties with the United States, with Turkey being a member of NATO. Such security relationships provide a robust alternative to the development of an indigenous nuclear deterrent and would be at risk if any of these states were perceived to be taking steps in that direction.

    It should also be added that all three are non-nuclear-weapon-state parties to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), under which they have formally renounced nuclear weapons and agreed to place all nuclear materials and related facilities under inspection by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to ensure they are not being used for such weapons. Any violation would entail significant diplomatic costs, as well as the risk of sanctions.

    For Japan and South Korea, the context is quite different from that of the three Middle Eastern states, but the bottom line is the same. The two East Asian countries have sizable, advanced civilian nuclear programs, and Japan has stocks of separated plutonium sufficient for a substantial nuclear arsenal. Moreover, both confront nuclear-armed antagonists, namely North Korea and China. The very immediacy of this threat, however, militates against Tokyo or Seoul launching a nuclear weapons program. With Japan lacking effective delivery systems and South Korea lacking fissile material, they cannot hope to meet the threat from the nearby nuclear-armed states by means of indigenous nuclear deterrents for at least five years and quite possibly longer.4 Thus, the only effective counter in these circumstances is reliance on the United States through their respective mutual defense treaties.5

    A further factor restraining these countries is that both are non-nuclear-weapon-state parties to the NPT. Were they to disregard the treaty, they would face strong diplomatic interventions by the United States and other like-minded governments. In addition, the two states would certainly anticipate a confrontational response from China and North Korea to any steps toward nuclearization. The Japanese government also would face substantial popular opposition to going down the nuclear weapons path, given the country’s history.6

    ...Or Steep Challenges Ahead?

    As encouraging as this picture seems, history also shows that the efforts of aspiring states to advance nuclear programs often remain secret for some time.

    • In the early 2000s, Syria’s effort to develop a clandestine plutonium-production reactor with the help of North Korea was apparently not known even to Western intelligence services, which first learned of the facility in 2007. The facility was not publicly revealed until early 2008.
    • Iran’s secret construction of the Natanz enrichment plant and the Arak reactor were not revealed until 2002 although they were probably known to U.S. intelligence officials well before that time. Iran’s subsequent construction of the Fordow enrichment plant, which began sometime before June 2007, may not have been confirmed by U.S. intelligence officials until shortly before it was publicly exposed in September 2009.
    • North Korea’s development of a uranium-enrichment facility was not confirmed even in U.S. intelligence circles until 2002, apparently well after construction began.
    • Saddam Hussein’s massive effort to develop a nuclear weapons infrastructure in Iraq in the 1980s eluded detection until exposed by uniquely intrusive inspections imposed after the 1991 Persian Gulf War.

    Thus, it is all too possible that surprises lie ahead that will cut short the momentary respite from proliferation pressures.             

    Today, such a surprise might be the product of a number of emerging technological advances that could significantly lower the barriers to the development of nuclear arms and create new incentives for states to pursue such weapons. In particular, additive manufacturing—the extremely precise and rapid printing of machine parts, such as those needed for uranium-enrichment centrifuges and missile engines—and the use of lasers to enrich uranium may create new pathways to more-rapid development of nuclear weapons and the systems necessary for their delivery.

    It may only be a few years, if that, before additive manufacturing is widely adopted. Although laser enrichment has not been commercialized, it may be adapted before long for enriching uranium on the smaller scale needed for a nuclear weapons program. Because of the small footprint of facilities employing these technologies, states could believe that they would be able to maintain the secrecy of their programs until they had achieved their objectives.

    Potential political developments could also truncate the pause in horizontal proliferation. A further drift toward dictatorship or a possible military coup in Turkey, for example, could increase the interest of Turkish leaders in a nuclear weapons capability. Increased instability accompanied by heightened nationalism might create such a trend in Egypt. A further rightward drift in Japan or South Korea could create added support for nuclear arming. One cannot rule out the possibility that Iran will abrogate its nuclear deal with the P5+1 and sprint toward a nuclear arsenal. The future activities of powerful, territory-controlling nonstate actors, including the Islamic State, Hezbollah, Boko Haram, and others must also be borne in mind.

    Thus, although the technical and political stars appear to have aligned to create a pause in the pursuit of nuclear arms by additional parties for the moment, that alignment is likely to be fragile and could be disrupted by future technological or political developments.

    Other Nuclear Risks Not Fading

    If horizontal proliferation may be leveling off, the risk of confrontation involving nuclear-armed states appears to be growing. With grim regularity, North Korea has been testing new capabilities, including more-powerful types of nuclear weapons, longer-range missiles, and submarine-launched systems. It also has been building up the number of nuclear weapons in its arsenal, which could easily reach 50 in a few years.

    South Korean President Park Geun-hye has declared that her country will respond in kind to any further militarized provocation from the North, while new UN Security Council sanctions and expanded U.S.-South Korean military exercises risk triggering just such a provocation from Pyongyang. The stage therefore is set for a confrontation with serious potential for escalation.

    China’s modernization of its nuclear arsenal will improve its capabilities for striking the United States. Its militarization of islands in the South China Sea, coupled with assertive U.S. Navy freedom-of-navigation cruises in contested nearby waters provides another emerging source of confrontation between nuclear-armed parties.

    In Europe, Russia is modernizing its nuclear arsenal apace, although total numbers of deployed warheads are constrained by the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty. Russia has repeatedly brandished its nuclear capabilities—through statements by President Vladimir Putin that have been taken by most observers as threats to escalate to the nuclear level if the West interferes in Moscow’s seizures of former Soviet territory—and through multiple military exercises threatening the Baltic states and other members of NATO. As NATO responds by intensifying air patrols in the Baltic states and increasing its presence there with expanded troop rotations, yet another locus for a possible nuclear confrontation has emerged.

    Finally, in South Asia, mismatched Indian and Pakistani strategic doctrines are creating another potential nuclear flashpoint. India has made clear it will respond with force if it experiences another major terrorist attack on the scale of the 2008 attacks on Mumbai in which it sees Pakistan’s handiwork. New Delhi appears to be confident that, by declaring it has only limited war aims, Pakistan will have no cause to respond with nuclear arms. For its part, Pakistan is prepared to employ such weapons to repel any incursion of Indian forces into Pakistani territory. Given the uncertainty over where Pakistani government control over terrorist groups begins and ends, the situation is rife with escalatory dangers.7

    Exploiting the Pause

    The tensions just described underscore the importance of sustaining and reinforcing the current lull in horizontal proliferation by strengthening U.S. and international nonproliferation tools to forestall the efforts of the next would-be nuclear-armed state, should one begin to emerge. Building on the nuclear deal that is now constraining Iran and on other initiatives, it might be possible to buttress nonproliferation efforts by the following measures.8

    Reinforce the role of the UN Security Council in enforcing nonproliferation norms by lowering the threshold for council involvement in cases of incipient proliferation. The threat of Security Council sanctions should be immediately invoked, for example, when the council receives confirmation of the secret construction of a sensitive fuel-cycle facility in an NPT non-nuclear-weapon state, and the council should remain ready to act until it is satisfied that the threat posed by such a facility has been effectively mitigated. The same mechanism should be employed if a number of states acting together formally complains to the council that the nuclear export controls of the group’s members are being repeatedly violated by another UN state.9 China, Germany, Japan, the United States, and a number of other countries might have raised such a complaint over Iran’s repeated abuse of their nuclear controls during the past decade. It should not be necessary to await a nuclear detonation or the formal determination of noncompliance with an IAEA safeguards agreement to trigger council involvement.

    Build on the one-year early-warning benchmark in the Iran nuclear deal to help limit enrichment and reprocessing. Various measures in the Iran nuclear deal are intended to lengthen to one year the time that would be required for Iran to produce nuclear weapons through misuse of its uranium-enrichment capability. Concerned states should work toward making this one-year early-warning standard an additional de facto requirement for approving transfers of enrichment and reprocessing technology. International support for the one-year early-warning benchmark in the Iranian case should also be used to underscore the dangers of enrichment and reprocessing more generally, as a counter to arguments that all states are entitled to pursue such technologies without restriction.

    Take steps toward making the powerful inspection tools adopted in the Iran nuclear deal a new standard for nuclear transparency. Various measures in the Iran nuclear deal are intended to prevent Iran from building nuclear arms by diverting nuclear materials from declared facilities or by building clandestine facilities. Steps such as monitoring uranium mines and the output of the mills that refine uranium ore should be promoted as essential components of standard IAEA inspection arrangements.

    Refine and publicize the innovative economic sanctions tools used to bring Iran to the bargaining table and the additional innovations in the newly adopted Security Council sanctions against North Korea. Widespread appreciation of the impact of these tools can create a powerful deterrent against further proliferation.

    Work to make illicit trafficking in nuclear goods an international crime, so as to establish universal jurisdiction and remove obstacles to the prosecution of malefactors. The difficulty in pursuing such traffickers was evident in the many failed attempts to prosecute members of the nuclear commodity smuggling network led by Pakistani scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan. It was also highlighted more recently when, in parallel with formal implementation of the Iran nuclear deal, the United States terminated Interpol Red Notices against 14 parties for illegally assisting the Iranian nuclear or missile programs.10 Washington publicly justified the terminations in part by declaring that pursuing efforts to arrest the individuals in question had little chance of success.

    Bring tools used by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) to combat money laundering and financing of proliferation-related activities to international technology control institutions. Mutual assessments, sometimes known as “peer reviews,” and public shaming should be introduced at the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) to encourage more-effective implementation of the group’s technology control rules by member states. This tool is used to considerable effect at the 36-member FATF to enforce member-state compliance with that group’s anti-money laundering and anti-proliferation-financing standards.11 The approach should also be used more widely by the committee overseeing implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1540. That resolution requires all states to implement controls, including export controls, over weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and related goods. The committee has experimented with peer reviews, supporting such a mutual assessment of implementation of Resolution 1540 by Croatia and Poland in 2013.12 The 1540 Committee should use this tool more widely. In addition, the committee currently lists state compliance with the resolution’s requirements on a vast and difficult-to-navigate set of matrices. A step that would greatly encourage compliance would be to assign states an overall status, such as “largely compliant,” “somewhat compliant,” “noncompliant, but progressing,” and “noncompliant.” If this does not find favor at the committee, a nongovernmental organization might make such assessments and issue an annual report, similar to the Nuclear Security Index issued by the Nuclear Threat Initiative.  The NSG and the 1540 Committee also should consider issuing public statements regarding implementation of nuclear export controls, such as those that the FATF issues. The FATF public statements identify states that have particularly weak controls on money laundering and urge FATF members to take precautionary measures in their dealings with such states. The NSG and the 1540 Committee could issue similar statements identifying states that have particularly weak controls over WMD goods and urging other UN members to be wary of dealing with them.

    Implement strategies, including international exchanges, for addressing new technological developments that could facilitate proliferation in coming years. Many concerned states are surely undertaking such analyses already. Internationalizing such work could broaden attention to this issue. One model for international exchanges might be through periodic meetings of technical experts on the margins of the NPT review conferences and Preparatory Committee meetings or under the auspices of the NSG.

    This list is by no means exhaustive, but is intended to illustrate a range of initiatives that, in most cases, have gained a measure of international support in addressing the Iranian nuclear program or in settings that do not involve nuclear weapons.

    Now is the time to seize the opportunity to buttress nonproliferation tools against an uncertain future. Despite the proliferation breather, this is no moment to relax.


    1.   Chemi Shalev, “Dennis Ross: Saudi King Vowed to Obtain Nuclear Bomb After Iran,” Ha’aretz, May 30, 2012.

    2.    World Nuclear Association, “Nuclear Power in Turkey,” October 2015, http://www.world-nuclear.org/information-library/country-profiles/countries-t-z/turkey.aspx; “Russia Halts Work in Turkey’s First Nuclear Power Plant After Spat—Officials,” Reuters, December 9, 2015, http://www.reuters.com/article/mideast-crisis-turkey-russia-nuclear-idUSL8N13Y2WB20151209.

    3.   World Nuclear Association, “Nuclear Power in Turkey.”

    4.   Japan has a substantial and advanced space launch capability, with a number of systems that could be converted to nuclear-capable intermediate- and longer-range missiles. Nonetheless, it would require considerable time to make such conversions; refine warhead designs, fusing, and separation; manufacture sufficient numbers to stock a deterrent arsenal; and develop mobile or silo basing systems. Federation of American Scientists, “Missile Program,” June 1, 2012, http://fas.org/nuke/guide/japan/missile/.

    5.   In mid-July 2015, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe acted to reinforce his country’s links to Washington, gaining the approval of Japan’s lower house of parliament to authorize the use of Japanese military forces abroad in cases when Japan is attacked or when a close ally is attacked and the result threatens Japan’s survival and poses a clear danger to its people. Jonathan Soble, “Japan Moves to Allow Military Combat for First Time in 70 Years,” The New York Times, July 16, 2015.

    6.   Tokyo or Seoul may take steps to reduce the time that would be needed to develop nuclear arms without getting so close as to antagonize adversaries and allies, but any such an “edging” strategy will likely remain quite cautious and limited.

    7.   Reductions in U.S., UK, and French nuclear arsenals and somewhat less fraught relations between Iran and Israel in the wake of the July 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action reflect more reassuring trends.

    8.   Other specialists have offered additional recommendations to build on the Iran nuclear deal. See Alexander Glaser et al., “Building on the Iran Deal: Steps Toward a Middle Eastern Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone,” Arms Control Today, December 2015.

    9.   UN Security Council Resolution 1540 declares in its preamble that trafficking in such nuclear goods poses a threat to international peace and security, the highest level of Security Council concern and one that serves as the standard for the imposition of sanctions under the UN Charter.

    10.   An Interpol Red Notice is a request made to all Interpol countries for assistance in executing a member state’s arrest warrant for certain persons.

    11.   All members of the Nuclear Suppliers Group are also members of the Financial Action Task Force or its affiliated bodies and should be familiar with the mutual assessment tool.

    12.   “Joint Report of Croatia and Poland on the Bilateral Peer Review of Implementation of the UN Security Council Resolution 1540 (2004),” n.d., http://www.un.org/en/sc/1540/pdf/Croatia-Poland%20Letter%20re%20effective%20practices%202014.pdf.

    Leonard S. Spector leads the Washington office of the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies. From 1997 to 2001, he served as assistant deputy administrator for arms control and nonproliferation at the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration.

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    Posted: March 29, 2016

    ICJ Hears Nuclear Disarmament Case

    The International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague began hearing arguments March 7 in a case brought against nuclear-armed India, Pakistan, and the United Kingdom by the Republic of the Marshall Islands...

    April 2016

    By Daryl G. Kimball

    The International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague began hearing arguments March 7 in a case brought against nuclear-armed India, Pakistan, and the United Kingdom by the Republic of the Marshall Islands, which contends that the UK has failed to meet disarmament obligations under Article VI of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) and NPT nonsignatories India and Pakistan have breached nuclear disarmament obligations established under customary international law.

    The action by the island republic, which was a U.S. protectorate until 1986, represents the most significant international legal challenge on nuclear weapons since the ICJ issued an advisory opinion on the “the legality of threat of or use of nuclear weapons” in 1996. It also reflects the growing frustration of many non-nuclear-weapon states over what they see as the slow pace of nuclear disarmament.

    The Marshall Islands, whose land and people were severely affected by 67 U.S. atmospheric nuclear tests conducted there from 1946 to 1958, is petitioning the ICJ to declare the three states in breach of their nuclear disarmament obligations and order them to initiate negotiations on nuclear disarmament.

    In its 1996 advisory opinion, the ICJ judged that the threat and use of nuclear weapons was generally illegal, but added that it could not decide whether this illegality applied “in an extreme circumstance of self-defense in which the very survival of a State would be at stake.” Three judges dissented from that ruling, arguing that nuclear weapons were illegal in all circumstances. In its 1996 opinion, the ICJ also concluded unanimously that the disarmament obligation is not limited to NPT parties.

    In court arguments, India, Pakistan and the UK separately argued that the Marshall Islands case was without merit and that they were committed to achieving nuclear disarmament. India in particular emphasized its votes in favor of nuclear disarmament at the UN General Assembly.

    The Indian government “believes that given our consistent and principled position on the NPT, to which India is not a party to, NPT provisions cannot be extended to India as a legal obligation,” External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup said in a March 7 statement.

    On the same day that the nuclear disarmament case opened at the ICJ, India conducted a test of its new, nuclear-capable K-4 submarine-launched ballistic missile.

    Tony de Brum, a representative of the Marshall Islands in the case and the former foreign minister, charged at the ICJ on March 15 that by “proudly and rapidly enhancing and diversifying” its nuclear arsenal, India’s “conduct is the opposite of satisfying a legal obligation to negotiate in good faith nuclear disarmament.”

    In April 2014, the Marshall Islands filed formal applications in the ICJ instituting proceedings against all nine of the world’s nuclear-armed states. But only India, Pakistan, and the UK accept the compulsory jurisdiction of the court and appeared in The Hague to argue their side in the case. The other nuclear-armed states were invited to respond, but China declined and the others did not respond.

    The ICJ is expected to issue separate rulings on the jurisdiction and admissibility of each case later this year. If the court rules in favor of the Marshall Islands, the process will move to the merits phase. If the court rules against the plaintiffs, the case will be over.

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    Posted: March 29, 2016

    China Backs Peace Talks for North Korea

    China is proposing “parallel tracks” to address North Korea’s desire for a peace treaty and the international community’s concerns about Pyongyang’s nuclear program.

    April 2016

    By Elizabeth Philipp

    China is proposing that key countries work on “parallel tracks” to address North Korea’s desire for a peace treaty and the international community’s concerns about Pyongyang’s nuclear program, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said last month.

    In comments at a March 8 press conference in Beijing, he said that “denuclearization is the firm goal of the international community, while replacing the armistice is a legitimate concern” of North Korea. The 1953 armistice established a cease-fire in the Korean War, which divided the peninsula, but the conflict never formally concluded with a peace treaty.

    Wang said that the issues of denuclearization and the peace treaty “can be negotiated in parallel, implemented in steps, and resolved with reference to each other” and that China is “open to any and all initiatives that can help bring the nuclear issue on the peninsula back to the negotiating table.” North Korea has frequently called for the conclusion of a peace treaty through statements in its state-run media.

    Wang delivered a similar message about the two-track approach in earlier joint remarks with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Feb. 23 in Washington. Wang said China “hope[s] that, in the near future, there will be an opportunity emerging for the resumption of the peace talks, of the six-party talks.” Those talks, which sought the dismantling of Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program, were held from 2003, when North Korea announced its withdrawal from the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, to 2009, when Pyongyang abandoned the talks.

    Wang acknowledged that “certain parties have different views” on his two-track proposal. He apparently was referring to the United States, which maintains that denuclearization is its first priority.

    At a March 3 press briefing, State Department spokesman John Kirby said that “nothing is going to change about [the U.S.] belief that first and foremost there has to be denuclearization.” Washington has not “ruled out the possibility that there could sort of be some sort of parallel process here. But—and this is not a small ‘but’—there has to be denuclearization on the peninsula and work through the six-party process to get there,” he said.

    Sung Kim, U.S. special representative for North Korea policy, reinforced the position in a March 8 interview with Seoul’s Yonhap News Agency, saying that his country’s “number one priority goal” of denuclearization “has not changed at all.”

    At the Feb. 23 press conference, Kerry did not reciprocate Wang’s endorsement of a parallel process. Kerry reported on the details of his meeting with Wang, stating that the two discussed ways to deepen cooperation on bringing North Korea “back to the table for the purpose of the six-party talks and particularly discussions about denuclearization.”

    The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this year that North Korea and the United States had been preparing for peace treaty negotiations via exchanges at the United Nations. In a Feb. 21 story, the paper reported that, in the days before Pyongyang conducted its fourth nuclear test, “the Obama administration secretly agreed to talks to try to formally end the Korean War, dropping a longstanding condition that Pyongyang first take steps to curtail its nuclear arsenal.” The subsequent nuclear test killed the diplomatic effort, the report said.

    Kirby rebutted some of the article’s key points in an email to Reuters the same day. He said that “it was the North Koreans who proposed discussing a peace treaty.” He stated that Washington “carefully considered” the proposal but insisted that “denuclearization had to be part of any such discussion.” Ultimately, North Korea rejected the U.S. response, he said.

    The U.S. response to the North Korean proposal “was consistent with our longstanding focus on denuclearization,” Kirby said.

    What's New Text: 

    Posted: March 29, 2016

    Nuclear Disarmament Summitry

    The positive results of the nuclear security summit process from 2010 to 2016 demonstrate how high-level, sustained leadership can catalyze action...

    April 2016

    By Daryl G. Kimball

    The positive results of the nuclear security summit process from 2010 to 2016 demonstrate how high-level, sustained leadership can catalyze action on a global problem: the threat of terrorists gaining access to nuclear weapons-usable material. More work lies ahead, but the intensive, six-year-long summit process has significantly reduced nuclear vulnerabilities in key states.

    As with preventing nuclear terrorism, reducing the catastrophic threats posed by nuclear weapons is a global enterprise that requires renewed leadership, dialogue, and action on the part of all the world’s nations.

    Unfortunately, 70 years after the attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, progress on disarmament is stalled; the risk of nuclear competition and conflict is growing; and several states are expanding or upgrading their nuclear arsenals. There are no active bilateral or multilateral negotiations to further regulate, cap, or reduce the stockpiles of any of the world’s nine nuclear-armed states.

    The possessors of the two largest arsenals, Russia and the United States, each deploy more than 1,800 strategic warheads on several hundred bombers and missiles—far more than necessary to deter nuclear attack.

    In 2013, President Barack Obama announced he is prepared to cut the U.S. strategic nuclear arsenal by an additional one-third. So far, Russian President Vladimir Putin has rebuffed the proposal and failed to make a counteroffer. Bilateral talks on further nuclear reductions are on hold indefinitely.

    Meanwhile, other nuclear-armed states, such as China, France, India, and Pakistan, sit on the nuclear disarmament sidelines. Leaders in Beijing, Islamabad, and New Delhi profess support for disarmament and “minimum” deterrence, but each is pursuing new land- and sea-based nuclear delivery systems. Although smaller in number, these arsenals are increasingly dangerous and destabilizing.

    For nearly two decades, the key countries at the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva have been unable to reach consensus to begin negotiations on a fissile material control treaty or to start nuclear disarmament discussions.

    The 2015 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference failed to produce an updated, meaningful action plan on disarmament that builds on previous disarmament commitments. The next review conference is another four years away.

    Frustrated by the slow pace of progress, more than 150 states attended conferences on the humanitarian impacts of nuclear weapons use. Earlier this year, many non-nuclear-weapon states joined an open-ended working group to discuss possible measures “to fill the legal gap for the prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons.”

    Some states and civil society campaigners want to launch talks on a treaty to ban nuclear weapons possession or use. Such a ban is eventually a necessary step toward a world without nuclear weapons, but it will not by itself change today’s dangerous nuclear doctrines or eliminate nuclear arsenals. It is not a substitute for the difficult work and bold leadership necessary to reduce nuclear risks and head off new dangers.

    As Henry Kissinger, Sam Nunn, William Perry, and George Shultz argued in an op-ed in 2013, a new multilateral effort for nuclear disarmament dialogue is needed. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon suggested in 2009 that the UN Security Council convene a summit on nuclear disarmament.

    Now is the time to seriously consider a high-level summit approach to help overcome the impasse on disarmament. Leaders from a core group of states could invite their counterparts from a representative group of 20 to 30 nuclear- and non-nuclear-weapon states to join a one- or two-day summit on steps to achieve a world free of nuclear weapons.

    This high-level meeting could be a starting point for ongoing, regular disarmament discussions at the expert and ministerial levels. As Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida has argued, the dialogue on disarmament should be based on a clear understanding of the devastating impacts of nuclear weapons use and an objective assessment of the security concerns of states.

    Borrowing a concept from the nuclear security summit process, all participants should be encouraged to bring “house gifts”—specific actions by states that would concretely diminish the threat of nuclear weapons use, freeze or reduce the number of nuclear weapons, reduce the role of nuclear weapons, bring into force key agreements such as the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, or make their nuclear programs more transparent.

    For instance, U.S. and Russian leaders could jointly announce they will resume negotiations on a follow-on treaty to the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty. Further U.S.-Russian cuts, which are possible even without a new treaty, if combined with a pause in the nuclear buildups by China, India, and Pakistan, could help establish the conditions for future multilateral disarmament talks.

    A nuclear disarmament and risk reduction summit process would complement the ongoing dialogue on nuclear terms and concepts involving the five NPT nuclear-weapon states and the humanitarian impacts initiative. Such a process by no means would be easy. But by putting the spotlight on the issue, it could spur new ideas and momentum. 

    Posted: March 29, 2016


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