U.S. Reports on Arms Control Compliance Concerns

May 2024
By Shizuka Kuramitsu

The State Department expressed concern about the activities of China, Iran, North Korea, and Russia in its latest annual report on compliance with international arms control and nonproliferation agreements.

The report, released in April and covering activities in 2023, highlighted Iran’s continued efforts to expand its stocks of enriched uranium after the U.S. withdrawal from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, and Iran’s failure to fulfill its reporting obligations to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) about new nuclear facilities. (See ACT, October and December 2023.) 

Recalling last year’s finding about Iran’s “continued failure to fully cooperate with the IAEA’s ongoing safeguards,” this year’s report determined that those “concerns have increased over time as Iran continued to fail to provide the cooperation” required under its comprehensive safeguards agreement with the agency.

In June 2023, for instance, Iran disclosed that it “had decided on locations for the construction of new nuclear facilities…[but] failed to provide the IAEA with preliminary design information as required” under the safeguards agreement, according to the report.

In response to the IAEA request for preliminary design information, Iran declared its unilateral suspension of a section of the safeguards agreement even though such an “implementation obligation cannot be suspended or unilaterally modified by Iran,” the report stated.

The report also said that “outstanding concerns remained” regarding Iran’s “possible undeclared nuclear material and activities…as evidenced by the IAEA’s ongoing safeguards investigations.” Nevertheless, the report concluded that “Iran is not currently undertaking the key nuclear weapons-development activities…necessary to produce a testable nuclear device.”

The report reiterated its previous assessment that North Korea “remains subject to IAEA safeguards obligations irrespective of its 2003 notice of withdrawal” from the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and “is in violation of its IAEA safeguards obligations in 2023.” 

Quoting IAEA assessments, the report noted North Korea’s continued effort to produce fissile material and indications of “possible testing” of the country’s experimental nuclear reactor at Yongbyon, which were observed to be “more frequent” and “for longer duration than previous years.”

Regarding Russia, the report cited Moscow’s withdrawal from the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty and the fact that it “has repeatedly used (riot control agents) as a method of warfare across the frontlines in Ukraine,” which violates Article 1 of the Chemical Weapons Convention. (See ACT, March 2024.)

The report identified no new compliance issues pertaining to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. Even so, the State Department expressed concern about the adherence by China and Russia to their respective testing moratoriums “due to lack of transparency with regard to their respective nuclear testing activities and previously identified adherence issues.” 

To address these concerns, the United States will continue to engage with China and Russia and to highlight the need for increased nuclear weapons-related transparency, as it did in a meeting with China in November, the report stated. (See ACT, December 2023.)