"No one can solve this problem alone, but together we can change things for the better." 

– Setsuko Thurlow
Hiroshima Survivor
June 6, 2016
Julia Masterson

Iran Announces New Nuclear Violation | P4+1 and Iran Nuclear Deal Alert

Iran Announces New Nuclear Violation President Hassan Rouhani directed the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) to introduce uranium gas into centrifuges installed at the Fordow facility on Nov. 6, violating the prohibition on enrichment activities at the site put in place by the 2015 nuclear deal. Iran’s decision to begin enriching uranium at Fordow under international supervision is a serious breach of the nuclear agreement, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). While the step does not pose a near-term proliferation threat, it risks eroding European support and...

North Korea Threatens to Resume Tests

November 2019
By Julia Masterson

North Korea threatened to resume nuclear and intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) testing if the United States does not change its approach to negotiations by the end of the year, Pyongyang’s chief negotiator said after October talks with U.S. officials.

Lead North Korean nuclear negotiator Kim Myong Gil (center), shown here in 2007, described the latest round of nuclear talks with the United States as "sickening."  (Photo: Song Kyung-Seok/Pool/Getty Images)U.S. and North Korean negotiators met on Oct. 4–5 in Stockholm for the first time in seven months to resume discussions on denuclearization and peace-building on the Korean peninsula.

The U.S. State Department described the meeting as “good” in an Oct. 5 statement, but North Korea’s lead negotiator, Kim Myong Gil, said the talks were “sickening.” He said the U.S. came with “empty-handed” proposals that “greatly disappointed [the North Korean delegation] and sapped our appetite for negotiations.”

Kim said the U.S. position demonstrated the United States’ unwillingness to “solve the issue” and cautioned of the “terrible incident” that would result from the failure of the United States to adjust its position ahead of any future talks.

“Whether our discontinuation of nuclear and ICBM test fire will resume or not totally depends on the U.S. attitude,” Kim warned.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un declared a voluntary moratorium on nuclear and long-range ballistic missile testing in April 2018.

But North Korea has consistently expressed frustration with the U.S. proposals to achieve the goals of denuclearization and peace-building on the peninsula agreed to by Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump at their first summit meeting, in Singapore in June 2018.

The North Korean leader warned in April 2019 that the United States must change its negotiating approach to one that is favorable to both sides before the end of the year or the “prospects for solving a problem will be bleak and very dangerous.” (See ACT, May 2019.)

In September, North Korean First Vice Minister Choe Son Hui invited working-level talks, but cautioned that Washington’s proposed “calculation method” would need shared approval by Pyongyang before future dialogue on North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. (See ACT, October 2019.)

Ahead of the Oct. 4–5 meeting, the Trump administration signaled that it was considering a new approach to negotiations.

Trump described the U.S. approach to the negotiations in similar terms, saying on Sept. 14 that “a new method would be very good.”

On Sept. 20, responding to Washington’s apparent shift in negotiating posture, lead negotiator Kim voiced optimism that the United States could propose the “right calculation method” and praised Trump for taking a more flexible approach.

In keeping with North Korea’s insistence on a step-by-step approach, Kim said that North Korea and the United States should “solve feasible matters first, one by one in stages, while building confidence in each other.” He added that a new method of diplomacy is the “best option.”

The State Department announced in an Oct. 5 press release that Washington offered proposals that would allow for the United States and North Korea to make progress toward achieving goals set at the 2018 Singapore summit.

Vox reported on Oct. 2 that the U.S. delegation would propose waiving UN sectoral sanctions on textile and coal exports for three years in exchange for North Korea’s verifiable closing of the Yongbyon nuclear facility and one other measure, likely the cessation of uranium enrichment.

It is not clear whether this proposal was formally discussed in Stockholm, but it would represent a shift from the Trump administration’s prior position that sanctions relief would not be granted until denuclearization was complete.

U.S. negotiators accepted a Swedish offer to continue talks in two weeks, but North Korea appeared to reject the proposed time frame for further discussions. “The U.S. has made almost no method of calculation for around 100 days since the [U.S.-North Korea] meeting in Panmunjom, do you think they can make it within two weeks?” Kim asked on Oct. 6.

A North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesperson said that if the United States does not change its negotiation stance, “the dealings between the DPRK and the U.S. might immediately come to an end.”

State-run newspapers showed pictures on Oct. 16 of the North Korean leader riding a white horse to the top of Mount Paektu, a sacred site, and emphasized the “mighty power and status” of North Korea. The statement said that “there will be a great operation to strike the world with wonder again,” and accompanying editorials emphasized North Korea’s self-reliance and noted that visits to Mount Paektu always preceded new strategic thinking.


North Korea Tests New SLBM

North Korea flight-tested a new submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) on Oct. 2, illustrating Pyongyang’s continued interest in pursuing a sea-based nuclear deterrent.

North Korea conducts a test launch of a submerged missile in 2016, a precursor to this year's flight test on Oct. 2.  (Photo: KCNA)The SLBM, known as the Pukguksong-3, is a two-stage, solid-fueled system and was likely launched from a submerged barge off the east coast of North Korea in Yonghung Bay.

A statement from North Korea’s Academy of Defense Science, as reported by the state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), described the test as a success and said it “scientifically and technically confirmed” the missile’s key features. The Oct. 3 statement said the launch has “great significance” and bolsters North Korea’s “military muscle for self-defense.”

The missile was launched on a lofted trajectory and splashed down in Japan’s economic exclusion zone. The statement said the test was designed to have “no adverse impact” on the security of other states.

According to David Wright, a missile expert at the Union of Concerned Scientists, the Pukguksong-3 would have a range of about 1,900 kilometers if flown on a standard trajectory. This range falls below the voluntary moratorium on long-range ballistic missile launches announced by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in April 2018, but the missile launch still violates UN Security Council resolutions prohibiting missile activities. (See ACT, May 2019.)

The U.S. State Department responded to the test by urging North Korea to refrain from provocations, saying in an Oct. 2 statement that the Trump administration was still committed to negotiations on denuclearization and peace-building in the region.

European members of the UN Security Council described the test as a “clear violation” of council resolutions in an Oct. 8 statement and said it was a provocation that undermines regional security.

North Korea last tested an SLBM, the Pukguksong-1, in 2016. That missile has an estimated range of 1,200 kilometers. Three of the six tests six tests of the Pukgukson-1 appear to have been successful. Experts believe that the sole test conducted from a ballistic missile submarine damaged the vessel.

North Korea is continuing construction on a new Sinpo-class ballistic missile submarine at its Sinpo shipyard. According to satellite imagery examined by the independent research organization 38 North in September, Pyongyang may be preparing to test the ejection system for missile launches.

The Sinpo-class submarine is believed to be more advanced than North Korea’s ballistic missile-capable Gorae-class submarine, which was put on display in 2015 but is not believed to be operational.—KELSEY DAVENPORT

Washington and Pyongyang made little progress at latest round of talks.

China Shows Off New Missiles

November 2019
By Julia Masterson

China displayed new and long-range missiles in an October military parade celebrating the 70th anniversary of the foundation of the People's Republic of China. The parade featured new unmanned aerial vehicles, advanced hypersonic missiles, and upgrades to missiles previously deployed by the People’s Liberation Army.

Chinese DF-17 hypersonic missiles are displayed in an Oct. 1 parade in Beijing.  (Photo: Sheng Jiapeng/China News Service/VCG/Getty Images)Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi stated at the UN General Assembly that “China has no intention of playing the ‘Game of Thrones’ on the world stage,” asserting China’s interest in global cooperation and in maintaining peaceful relations with the United States.

Nevertheless, just a week after his remarks, China paraded updated military hardware through Tiananmen Square in Beijing. Among the weapons exhibited in the parade were the Dongfeng-41 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) and a new hypersonic weapon, the Dongfeng-17.

Efforts to develop the Dongfeng-41 began in the late 1980s, and the current version is reportedly a solid-fueled ICBM equipped with multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles making it capable of delivering several nuclear warheads. The missile is believed to have a range of 15,000 kilometers, enabling it to reach targets in the continental United States in approximately 30 minutes. A U.S. National Intelligence Estimate in 1999 listed the Dongfeng-41, then under development, as a missile designed to target the United States. (See ACT, September/October 1999.)

The Dongfeng-17 has a comparatively shorter range, estimated at just more than 2,500 kilometers, and is equipped to carry a conventional warhead on a hypersonic glide vehicle. According to some independent weapons analysts, the Dongfeng-17 does not dramatically strengthen the conventional threat that China poses to U.S. or allied forces in the region.

James Acton of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace said that China already possesses a “formidable arsenal of existing weapons” capable of flying a similar range. Other experts noted that because the Dongfeng-17 is more maneuverable, it will be more capable of evading U.S. missile interceptors designed to protect U.S. command centers and airfields in East Asia. The Dongfeng-17’s inaugural flight test was in November 2017, and further testing will be necessary before the weapon can be operationally deployed.

Officials parade a new long-range, nuclear-armed missile.

U.S. Alleges New Syrian Chlorine Attack

U.S. officials have confirmed the United States believes that Syria once again has used chlorine-based weapons, this time in a May 2019 strike in Syria’s Latakia Province. According to The Wall Street Journal, the U.S. intelligence assessment indicates that the May 19 attack was conducted by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces and killed at least four people.

A Syrian girl holds an oxygen mask over the face of an infant at a makeshift hospital following a reported gas attack in Douma on the outskirts of the capital Damascus in 2018.  (Photo: Hasan Mohamed/AFP/Getty Images)The 1997 Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), to which Syria acceded in 2013, prohibits the production, stockpiling, transfer, and use of chemical weapons. A joint investigative mechanism led by the treaty’s Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and the United Nations has verified the sporadic but regular use of chemical weapons and of other toxic chemicals, including chlorine, in Syria since 2014.

Although the OPCW defines chemical weapons as “any chemical intended for chemical weapons purposes” and includes chlorine on a list of chemical choking agents, chlorine gas is a dual-use chemical and not a scheduled agent explicitly banned by the CWC. Consequently, the Syrian government’s supplies of chlorine were not part of the OPCW-led removal and destruction of Syria’s sarin and mustard arsenal and precursor chemicals, executed shortly after Syria’s accession to the CWC. (See ACT, December 2014.)—JULIA MASTERSON

U.S. Alleges New Syrian Chlorine Attack

North Korea Rejects U.S. Proposal

North Korea Rejects U.S. Proposal U.S. and North Korean negotiators met for the first time in seven months Oct. 4-5 to continue talks on denuclearization and peacebuilding on the Korean peninsula, but the prospects for further negotiations remain unclear as Pyongyang continues to reiterate that the Trump administration must change its position for the process to continue. The State Department characterized the talks in Stockholm as “good” and said the U.S. negotiating team brought new proposals to the table to address all of the goals laid out in the June 2018 Singapore summit declaration ...

Iran Announces Third Nuclear Breach

October 2019
By Julia Masterson

Iran will no longer adhere to limits on its nuclear research and development activities, as it once agreed in the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Iranian President Hassan Rouhani announced on Sept. 4. Just three days later, Atomic Energy Organization of Iran spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi said that technicians had begun introducing uranium hexafluoride to cascades of 20 IR-4 and 20 IR-6 centrifuges, exceeding the number of machines permitted in a cascade by the R&D terms of the nuclear agreement.

French President Emmanuel Macron, shown in September, proposed establishing a $15 billion line of credit to incentivize Iran's compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal. (Photo: Philippe Wojazer/AFP/Getty Images)If confirmed, the move would constitute Iran’s third breach of the six-party nuclear deal in retaliation to the U.S. withdrawal from the agreement in May 2018 and Washington’s reimposition of U.S. sanctions that had been lifted. Iran’s latest step away from the nuclear accord follows its May and July 2019 decisions to enrich and accumulate uranium beyond the thresholds designated by the JCPOA. According to the agreement, Iran can store no more than 300 kilograms of uranium hexafluoride enriched up to 3.67 percent uranium-235, and it may not enrich uranium to levels higher than that for 15 years after the implementation day.

The nuclear accord limits Iran to operating 5,060 IR-1 centrifuges and permits R&D work on a very limited number of IR-4, -5, -6, and -8 centrifuges, as long as the work does not result in an accumulation of enriched uranium.

Tehran’s September decision to breach the agreement’s centrifuge R&D limits poses risks that Iran could increase the output of its centrifuges, should it begin to operate and withdraw enriched uranium from the more advanced designs.

The latest International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report confirmed that Iran has installed or is in the process of installing 22 IR-4 centrifuges, one IR-5 centrifuge, and 33 IR-6 modeled centrifuges. Although prepared for testing, the IAEA indicated that as of Sept. 8, no uranium hexafluoride had been introduced into these centrifuges.

Until now, Iran had been complying with the R&D restrictions. A May 2019 IAEA report said that “no enriched uranium has been accumulated through enrichment R&D activities, and Iran’s enrichment R&D with and without uranium has been conducted using centrifuges specified in the JCPOA.” Should Iran begin to enrich and accumulate uranium using advanced centrifuge models or test the centrifuges installed at the Natanz pilot fuel-enrichment plant, then Iran’s actions would signify a further breach of the nuclear accord.

The September IAEA report also verified that Iran has taken steps toward configuring cascades, or chains of centrifuges used to optimize enriched uranium output, at the Natanz plant. The report cited a Sept. 8 letter from Tehran to the agency expressing a plan to install two cascades: one of 164 IR-4 centrifuges and one of 164 IR-2m centrifuges. Both cascades were under development prior to the JCPOA’s implementation, but Iran was obligated to remove them from the Natanz plant under the terms of the 2015 agreement.

Iran’s latest potential breach of the JCPOA comes one month after its Aug. 5 plea to European leaders to do more to compensate the Iranian government for assets lost through the imposition of U.S. sanctions. (See ACT, September 2019.) In May the Trump administration announced it would not renew the sanctions waivers previously granted to countries importing Iranian oil in a strengthened effort to pressure Iran to halt its nuclear and missile provocations and to disengage from regional conflicts.

At the Group of Seven summit in France in August, French President Emmanuel Macron offered a proposal to extend Iran a $15 billion line of credit guaranteed by future Iranian oil sales in return for Iran’s return to compliance with the JCPOA and commitment to negotiations on regional security and the future of Iran’s nuclear program.

On Sept. 3, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves le Drian said that talks on the credit arrangement were underway but U.S. approval would be crucial. “All this (pre)supposes that President [Donald] Trump issues waivers,” he told reporters.

Earlier this year, the Europeans established INSTEX, a state-owned trade intermediary to facilitate trade in nonsanctioned goods with Iran. When the U.S. oil sanctions waivers were eliminated in May 2019, oil imports were halted. Only China and Syria continue to buy Iranian oil, albeit at a lessened rate, in defiance of U.S. sanctions.

Without the reissuance of U.S. sanctions waivers, France and other countries are unlikely to move forward due to the cost of the U.S. Treasury Department sanctions on the institutions and businesses involved in the French plan.

Iran has begun to test advanced centrifuges as it furthers its noncompliance with the 2015 nuclear deal. 

India Boosts Range of BrahMos Cruise Missile

The BrahMos cruise missile, produced by an Indian-Russian venture, is displayed in St. Petersburg in 2017.  (Photo: Olga Maltseva/AFP/Getty Images)India has increased the range of its BrahMos supersonic cruise missile to 500 kilometers after successful summer testing, an industry official told The Economic Times. The technological development followed earlier reports that New Delhi may soon begin exporting the missile to the Middle East and Southeast Asia. The conventionally armed BrahMos missile is reported to be world’s fastest cruise missile, capable of flying at nearly three times the speed of sound. It is manufactured in India by BrahMos Aerospace, a joint Indian-Russian enterprise.

The new capability was made possible by India’s membership in the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), said Sudhir Kumar Mishra, the firm’s chief executive officer. Before joining in 2016, India was prevented from receiving technology from MTCR members, such as Russia, for missiles capable of flying more than 300 kilometers or carrying payloads heavier than 500 kilograms.

MTCR limitations will need to be considered as India decides which versions of the BrahMos to export.

Thailand, Singapore, and Malaysia have expressed interest in the BrahMos, according to Sputnik News, and other customers friendly to India and Russia may also be interested.—JULIA MASTERSON

India Boosts Range of BrahMos Cruise Missile

India Considers No-First-Use Changes


India may be considering repudiating its long-standing no-first-use nuclear doctrine, according to an Aug. 16 tweet by Indian Defense Minister Rajnath Singh. “India has strictly adhered to this doctrine,” Singh wrote, but “what happens in the future depends on the circumstances.”

Like China, India currently vows to use nuclear weapons only in retaliation for a first-strike attack. If there is a change, it would not be the first time that India has modified its nuclear posture. India adopted a no-first-use policy in 1998 but stipulated that the promise extended only to states that did not have nuclear weapons and were not aligned with a nuclear-armed state (See ACT, July/August 1999). In 2003, India formally published its nuclear command structure and reaffirmed its no-first-use policy, but added that a chemical or biological attack could warrant a retaliatory nuclear response, further conditioning the scope of its 1998 pledge. (See ACT, January/February 2003.)

The incumbent Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) promised in 2014 to amend India’s nuclear doctrine, and specifically to revisit the no-first-use issue. (See ACT, May 2015.) The same promise was notably absent from the BJP 2019 manifesto, but the recent comments come from the highest-ranking official to have hinted at additional adjustments to New Delhi’s nuclear use policy.—JULIA MASTERSON

India Considers No-First-Use Changes

Pakistan Maintains Missile Tests

Pakistan tested a 290-kilometer-range ballistic missile in late August, soon after a set of clashes between Indian and Pakistani forces in the disputed Kashmir region. The Ghaznavi missile, based on a Chinese design, is reportedly capable of delivering multiple types of warheads, according to an Aug. 29 release from Pakistan’s military, which said it notified Indian counterparts of the test according to the terms of confidence-building measures agreed in the 1999 Lahore Declaration. (See ACT, January/February 1999.

Pakistan deploys seven nuclear-capable missiles, all of which are also capable of carrying conventional payloads, according to the Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance. Prior to the Ghaznavi test, Pakistan had most recently tested a ballistic missile in May, as India counted its national election ballots, CNN reported.

The Pakistani release said the missile test was part of a field training exercise “aimed at practicing quick response procedures.”—JULIA MASTERSON

Pakistan Maintains Missile Tests

French Proposal on Hold as Tensions Mount | P4+1 and Iran Nuclear Deal Alert

French Proposal on Hold as Tensions Mount The latest attempt by European powers to salvage the 2015 Iran nuclear deal hit a roadblock this month when the Trump Administration hesitated to engage in a French-sponsored initiative. In August, French President Emmanuel Macron offered a proposal before world leaders at the G-7 summit in Biarritz, France for a $15 billion line of credit to Tehran in exchange for its full compliance with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). According to the plan, the $15 billion credit line would be guaranteed by Iranian oil and would help compensate...


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