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former IAEA Director-General

Missile Testing

Missile Testing

Indian ICBM Passes Test

Indian ICBM Passes Test


India's Agni-5 missile is displayed during a rehearsal for the Indian Republic Day parade in New Delhi on January 23, 2013.  (Photo: RAVEENDRAN/AFP/Getty Images)India successfully tested an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), the Agni-5, for the fifth time. The Jan. 18 test was the first of two reported tests to be completed before the missile can enter service. The missile previously completed four successful “developmental” tests. A defense ministry statement declared that the test “reaffirms the country’s indigenous missile capabilities and further strengthens our credible deterrence.” Indian President Ram Nath Kovind tweeted his support, claiming that it “will boost our strategic defence.”

The Agni-5, first tested in 2012, is India’s first ICBM. With a range of more than 3,100 miles, analysts assess that the missile is being developed to deter China. Officially, China was silent on the launch, but the state-owned Global Times wrote on Jan. 18 that the test “poses a direct threat to China’s security as well as a big challenge to the global efforts of nuclear nonproliferation.” India also tested the Prithvi-2, Agni-2, and Agni-1 missiles in February.—ALICIA SANDERS-ZAKRE

Posted: March 1, 2018

Are We Nearing the End of the INF Treaty?

As relations between the West and Russia deteriorate, a key Cold War arms control accord has come under threat.

January/February 2018
By Steven Pifer and Oliver Meier

As relations between the West and Russia deteriorate, a key Cold War arms control accord has come under threat.

Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and U.S. President Ronald Reagan shake hands December 8, 1987 at their Washington summit, as dignitaries give a standing ovation after the two leaders signed the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. The ceremony was held in the East Room of the White House. (Photo: DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images)The United States charges that Russia has violated the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty by deploying a prohibited ground-launched cruise missile (GLCM) having a range between 500 and 5,500 kilometers. Moscow rejects the charge and instead claims that Washington has violated the agreement. The Trump administration has announced several steps in response to the Russian violation, including beginning research and development of options for U.S. intermediate-range missiles.

If the treaty unravels, it will open the door to an arms race in production and deployment of these missiles, which would weaken security in Europe and Asia. It would undermine support for other arms control treaties, such as the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) and make it difficult to reach new accords. That would not be in the interest of the United States, Russia, Europe, or Asia.

Washington and Moscow should work to preserve the INF Treaty and its benefits. If the United States and Russia desire to maintain the treaty, there are ways to resolve their compliance concerns. If they do not act to save the treaty, its days are likely numbered.

INF Treaty History

The Soviet Union began deploying the SS-20 intermediate-range ballistic missile in the late 1970s. The SS-20’s mobile launcher, three independently targetable warheads, and estimated range of 5,000 kilometers made it a significant improvement over older Soviet intermediate-range missiles and provoked alarm in Europe.

Washington at first downplayed the concern, but NATO agreed in December 1979 to the “dual-track” decision: The United States would seek to engage the Soviet Union in a negotiation aimed at reducing and limiting intermediate-range ground-launched missiles. In parallel, the U.S. military would develop and, beginning in late 1983, base GLCMs in Belgium, Italy, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom and Pershing II ballistic missiles in Germany, provided that an arms control agreement did not obviate those deployments.

Dutch protesters demonstrate October 29, 1983 in The Hague against deployment of U.S. Pershing cruise missiles. The Soviet Union quit negotiations on a ban on such intermediate-range nuclear missiles in late 1983 but returned to talks in 1985 that concluded successfully with the INF Treaty eliminating a whole class of weapons.  (Photo: HERMAN PIETERSE/AFP/Getty Images)U.S.-Soviet negotiations began in 1981, and U.S. President Ronald Reagan announced the “zero-zero” proposal under which the United States would forgo its planned deployments if the Soviet Union eliminated its SS-20 and other intermediate-range missiles. Moscow rejected zero-zero, and the first two years of negotiations yielded little common ground between the sides. When the first U.S. GLCMs and Pershing IIs arrived in Europe in November 1983, the Soviets broke off the negotiations.

The Kremlin seemed to hope that public opposition within NATO countries would derail the U.S. missile deployments. Although it appeared a near thing at times, leaders in the five basing countries held firm despite significant domestic opposition, and the alliance moved forward with deployment. In 1985 the Soviets agreed to resume negotiations.

The negotiations made progress in 1986-1987 along the lines of the zero-zero proposal. Reagan and his Soviet counterpart, Mikhail Gorbachev, signed the INF Treaty on December 8, 1987. The treaty banned the production, flight-testing, and possession of all ground-based cruise and ballistic missiles having ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers (300 and 3,300 miles) and required the elimination of all such existing missiles. When the treaty’s reduction period concluded in 1991, the United States and Soviet Union had destroyed some 2,700 missiles, as well as launchers and other support equipment.

Following the Soviet Union’s collapse at the end of 1991, Russia and several other post-Soviet states assumed the Soviet INF Treaty obligations. The treaty’s inspection period ended in 2001. The Special Verification Commission (SVC), established by the treaty as a venue for discussing the treaty’s implementation and compliance concerns, with the participation of the United States, Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine, had its last meeting in 2003 before a 13-year hiatus.

In 2005, Russian officials expressed interest in withdrawing from the treaty and suggested to the United States to jointly terminate the accord. Washington refused. In February 2007, Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed concern that, although the United States and Russia were banned from having intermediate-range missiles, third countries were developing and fielding such systems, and those countries tended to be in close proximity to Russia.

The following October, Putin proposed making the INF Treaty “global in scope.” The United States and Russia at the UN General Assembly jointly called on third countries to eliminate their intermediate-range missile systems. Moscow did not seriously pursue its proposal, although Russian officials continued to express concern about the proliferation of intermediate-range missiles.

Treaty Violation Charges

During the Obama administration, reports began to circulate that Russia was violating the INF Treaty. In July 2014, the U.S. government publicly charged that Russia had violated the accord. Washington offered few public details, but press reports indicated that Russia had tested a prohibited intermediate-range GLCM. The INF Treaty does not ban development per se, but draws the line at testing. In March 2017, a senior U.S. military officer said Russia had begun to deploy the missile, confirming press reports that had appeared two months earlier.

USS Florida launches a Tomahawk cruise missile during a test in the waters off the coast of the Bahamas in January 2003. (Photo: U.S. Navy/Getty Images)U.S. government officials have made little information available publicly on the specifics of the Russian violation. This stems from their desire to protect sources and methods, that is, how the U.S. government learned of the violation. They have been consulting with allies on INF Treaty questions and the Russian violation.

The Trump administration says the Russian system of concern is the SSC-8 GLCM, which the U.S. government says uses the Russian designator 9M729. This missile appears to be an extended-range version of the SSC-7 (Iskander-K) cruise missile. The Iskander-K is an INF Treaty-permitted cruise missile with a range of less than 500 kilometers. The SSC-8/9M729 reportedly uses a launcher that differs from the Iskander-K launcher. Deployment of SSC-8 missiles is expected in all four Russian military districts, that is, in the European and Asian parts of Russia.

Russia has denied the U.S. charge and asserted that U.S. officials had not produced enough information for it to identify the system of concern. U.S. officials flatly rejected that, saying that Moscow has all the information it needs. The U.S. Department of State’s 2017 compliance report notes that, during several meetings, the U.S. side provided “more than enough information for the Russian side to identify the missile in question,” including “[i]nformation pertaining to the missile and the launcher,” such as “Russia’s internal designator for the mobile launcher chassis and the names of the companies involved in developing and producing the missile and launcher,” as well as data on “the violating GLCM’s test history, including coordinates of the tests and Russia’s attempts to obfuscate the nature of the program.”1 Russian officials recently acknowledged that the 9M729 (SSC-8) is the missile in question, but they maintain that it is fully compliant with the INF Treaty.

Russian officials charge the United States with violating the INF Treaty. The primary Russian concern appears to center on the Mk-41 vertical launch system for the Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) interceptors in Romania, soon to be deployed in Poland, which are part of NATO’s missile defense program. Russian officials note that Mk-41 vertical launch systems on U.S. Navy warships can launch sea-launched cruise missiles, which are quite similar to the now eliminated GLCMs, as well as SM-3 interceptors and other missiles, and say that the launchers in Romania and Poland can contain cruise missiles.

Moreover, the Russians charge that the United States uses intermediate-range ballistic missiles as targets in missile defense tests and operates armed unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs, or drones) that are equivalent to GLCMs of intermediate range.

U.S. and Russian officials discussed the charges in political channels for several years before convening the SVC in November 2016. The commission met again in mid-December 2017. Thus far, it has not reported progress toward resolving the compliance questions.

Resolving Compliance Issues

From a technical perspective, parties to the INF Treaty could resolve these concerns through a combination of political-level talks and technical exchanges in the SVC. A group of nongovernmental experts, the
trilateral Deep Cuts Commission, has developed a number of proposals on how the SVC could tackle these noncompliance concerns.2

U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis holds a press conference November 9, 2017, at NATO headquarters in Brussels during talks that included discussion of the alleged Russian INF Treaty violation. (Photo: JOHN THYS/AFP/Getty Images)If Moscow were prepared to address the U.S. charge seriously, the SVC could agree on procedures under which the Russian side would exhibit the SSC-8 and its launcher to U.S. experts and explain the missile’s characteristics, particularly its range. If that exhibition satisfied the U.S. side that the missile was consistent with the INF Treaty, the matter would be put to rest. If there were further questions, they could be discussed in the SVC. Another option for addressing the problem would be to create a new panel of technical experts from the United States and Russia to discuss ways to resolve noncompliance concerns.

If it turned out that the SSC-8 had a range in excess of 500 kilometers but not in excess of 5,500 kilometers, the issue would be more difficult to resolve. All missiles and their associated launchers, including all launchers from which the missile was tested, would have to be eliminated in a verifiable manner in order for Russia to return to compliance with the treaty. The INF Treaty contains precise verification procedures, but they were developed and tailored to certify the destruction of U.S. and Soviet systems in existence as of 1987. Those procedures would require adaptation for the SSC-8 and its launcher, which could be agreed in the SVC. In any case, the sooner that detailed discussions on the violation commenced, the easier it would be to find solutions to tackle the compliance problems raised by Washington and Moscow.

With regard to the Russian charges, the dispute over the U.S. use of booster stages in target missiles for ballistic missile defense tests should not prove difficult to resolve. The INF Treaty makes an allowance for such missiles, and the sides’ technical experts could work out language in the SVC to distinguish between prohibited intermediate-range ground-launched ballistic missiles and allowed target missiles for missile defense tests. In addition, they might agree on language restricting target missiles to production facilities and sites associated with missile defense tests.

The second dispute regards whether armed UAVs, which the United States deploys and Russia is developing, are covered by the agreement. Armed UAVs did not exist when the United States and Soviet Union concluded the INF Treaty. UAVs differ from cruise missiles because they can return to base after their mission is completed. This clear distinction between GLCMs and UAVs should enable experts in the SVC to agree on language to clarify the scope of the INF Treaty.

The more serious Russian charge concerns the Mk-41 vertical launch system deployed in Romania and scheduled to become operational in Poland in 2018. Experts could address that in two ways. One would be modification of the land-based Mk-41 system with an observable difference—ideally, a functionally related observable difference—to distinguish the launchers in Romania and Poland from Mk-41 vertical launch systems on U.S. warships.

The second approach would employ transparency measures to reassure Russia that the launchers in Romania and Poland did not contain cruise missiles or weapons other than SM-3 interceptors. With the agreement of NATO and, in particular, Romania and Poland, U.S. officials could invite Russian inspectors to periodically visit the SM-3 sites, where they could randomly choose two or some other agreed number of the 24 launch tubes in the vertical launch system to be opened, allowing confirmation that they contained SM-3 interceptors.

The SVC would work out procedures for such inspections, as well as the particulars for observable differences for the vertical launch systems in Romania and Poland. Given the concerns of NATO member states, it might make sense to include European experts on visits to the SM-3 interceptor sites or to any Russian exhibition of the SSC-8.

The Politics of Compliance

The political obstacles to resolving the INF Treaty issues appear more difficult to overcome than the technical hurdles. The INF Treaty dispute happens at a time when a number of other arms control and transparency agreements, including the Open Skies Treaty, are increasingly affected by the crisis in U.S.-Russian relations. These accords may lack the strong supporting constituencies in Moscow, Washington, and, to some degree, Europe that they used to have.

A number of Russian military and civilian officials seem to favor withdrawal from the INF Treaty. They argue that it is a Cold War relic that has been overtaken by technological advances. These include the deployment of U.S. missile defenses in Europe and the growing number of intermediate-range missiles in the inventories of third countries. China, for example, deploys hundreds of intermediate-range ballistic and cruise missiles. North Korea, South Korea, India, Pakistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Israel also possess intermediate-range missiles.

Those Russians who support continued adherence to the treaty worry about a new arms race and the prospect of the deployment of new U.S. precision-guided weapons systems in Europe. Moscow’s official position remains that it has not violated the treaty and remains committed to it. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has said that Russia remains willing “to discuss the concerns of both parties.”3

U.S. Attempts to Bring Russia Back Into Compliance

While charging Russia with violating the INF Treaty, the Obama administration made clear its interest in maintaining the treaty and sought to bring Russia back into compliance. It failed. The Trump administration conducted a review of the agreement while senior administration officials spoke in the fall of 2017 of looking for leverage to bring Russia back into compliance with the accord.

Also at that time, Congress agreed on language in the National Defense Authorization Act that authorizes up to $58 million to respond to the alleged Russian INF Treaty violation, including by the establishment of a program of record to develop an intermediate-range GLCM.4

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said in remarks October 20, 2017, at the Moscow Nonproliferation Conference that Russia is willing to “discuss the concerns of both parties.” (Photo: C-SPAN)On December 8, 2017—the 30th anniversary of the signing of the INF Treaty—the Trump administration announced what it called an integrated strategy for dealing with the Russian violation. The strategy reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to preserving the treaty and said the United States would (1) continue efforts to seek a diplomatic settlement of the Russian violation, including through the SVC; (2) begin research and development on options for conventionally armed intermediate-range ground-launched missile systems; and (3) impose economic sanctions on Russian entities that had taken part in development and production of the SSC-8.

Development of a new U.S. intermediate-range ground-launched missile, although not a violation of the treaty as long as the United States did not proceed to flight-testing, would be at odds with the purpose of the INF Treaty. After all, it was negotiated with the goal of eliminating all land-based intermediate-range missiles from Europe and globally. The Russians undoubtedly will attempt to exploit the contradiction between U.S. words and actions if Washington were to pursue development of a new intermediate-range ground-launched missile while insisting on the value of a prohibition of those weapons.

The push for a tough response is based on the hope that the United States and NATO can pressure Russia to come back into compliance. Congress, which distrusts the Trump administration’s Russia policy, may also hope to make sure that the president does not paper over the INF Treaty issue. Proponents of a tit-for-tat response recall that deploying GLCMs and Pershing IIs in the early 1980s helped to trigger a discussion in Moscow that eventually led to the agreement to eliminate all INF Treaty-covered missiles.

Could a second dual-track decision, including a decision to deploy new U.S. intermediate-range systems in Europe, push Moscow back to the negotiating table? A number of factors appear to lower the likelihood that such a policy would work. First, finding consensus within NATO for such a course would prove difficult. In the mid-1980s, the Soviet Union’s military position relative to NATO was significantly stronger than that of Russia today relative to NATO. Second, the relationship between Moscow and Washington 30 years ago was on an upward trajectory, whereas today U.S.-Russian relations are in a downward spiral. Arguably, the leaderships in Moscow and Washington in the 1980s were pursuing more consistent and predictable policies and were more interested in reversing the nuclear arms race than their successors are today.

Moreover, a program that moved beyond early research and development to flight-testing and production of a new U.S. intermediate-range ground-launched missile would cost billions of dollars at a time when the Department of Defense budget already faces major shortfalls. Fielding a new missile system would take years and not provide a timely response to Russia’s current violation.

The Alliance Dimension

The U.S. and NATO military responses to Russian deployment of a new GLCM should primarily aim at reassuring allies. Although allies may not object to U.S. development of a new intermediate-range ground-launched missile, proceeding to flight-testing and deployment would severely stress NATO solidarity.

Deploying U.S. conventionally armed air- and sea-launched cruise missiles to Europe would offer an alternative action. Temporary deployments of conventional B-1 heavy bombers combined with Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missiles, as well as more frequent deployments to northern European waters of U.S. warships and submarines carrying conventionally armed sea-launched cruise missiles, could also signal the U.S. commitment to Europe. Deployment of the USS Georgia or USS Florida—converted Ohio-class submarines that carry up to 154 sea-launched cruise missiles—to seas near Europe would also underscore that any attempt by Moscow to create zones of different security are not going to be successful.

Steps such as these would be easier, faster, and cheaper than building a new ground-launched missile. They might affect Moscow’s calculation and encourage the Kremlin to return to compliance with the INF Treaty. If Russia did so, these steps would be readily reversible.

Such moves are also less likely to provoke a crisis within the alliance about its response to Russia’s actions. It is by no means certain that NATO would agree to deploy U.S. missiles now, as it did in its 1979 decision. The development of new intermediate-range ground-launched missiles will inevitably bring back memories of contentious debates within NATO about moving forward with the deployment of GLCMs and Pershing IIs in the early 1980s.

NATO members favor maintaining the INF Treaty. The communiqué of the 2016 NATO Warsaw summit termed preservation of the agreement “crucial to Euro-Atlantic security” and called on Moscow “to preserve the viability of the INF Treaty through ensuring full and verifiable compliance.”5

At a November 2017 NATO defense ministers meeting, U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis again briefed allies on Russia’s alleged INF Treaty violation. Mattis reportedly urged allies to craft a joint position to force Russia back into compliance by the time of the next NATO summit in July 2018, suggesting that Washington would otherwise react unilaterally.6

On December 15, NATO allies took note of the U.S. decision to begin development of a new GLCM but stopped short of collectively endorsing it by stating that “our actions, including national measures taken by some allies, seek to preserve the INF Treaty, strengthen the alliance, and incentivize Russia to engage in good faith.” NATO also stated that “allies have identified a Russian missile system that raises serious concerns,” yet allies did not jointly affirm the U.S. finding of Russian non-compliance.7

That silence frustrates U.S. officials, particularly because a Russian intermediate-range GLCM would be designed and built to strike targets in Europe and Asia, not the United States. To improve alliance cohesion, Washington should inform the alliance in more specific detail about its intelligence on the SSC-8. It should consult with allies on the way forward. Any attempt to force allies to support U.S. military deployments could well increase skepticism in Europe about the reliability of Washington’s nuclear policies under President Donald Trump.

Given that Congress has become a driving force behind the U.S. push to respond in kind to Russia’s policies, a parliamentary dialogue on how to respond to the INF Treaty violation would be important. NATO’s Parliamentary Assembly, which regularly brings together legislators from alliance members, might be a good place to have discussions about a response to Russia’s actions. This could be complemented by bilateral dialogues between parliamentarians.

Any division among allies on how to act on the INF Treaty question would play into Moscow’s hands. In any event, it would make no sense for Washington to withdraw from the treaty unless it can present compelling evidence of Russia’s violation. Absent such information, the United States likely would get the blame for the treaty’s end, and Russia would be free to deploy intermediate-range missiles without any treaty constraints.

Conclusion

The INF Treaty is fundamental to European security and important to the security of U.S. allies and others in Asia. The treaty’s collapse would open the way for an arms race in intermediate-range ground-launched missiles, with unpredictable strategic and political consequences for relations between the West and Russia.8 It would also weaken the U.S.-Russian nuclear arms control regime. Indeed, although their proposal did not survive congressional conference committee negotiations on the National Defense Authorization Act, some Republicans had proposed to deny funds for extension of New START beyond 2021 if Russia was not in compliance with the INF Treaty.

The INF Treaty has made a significant contribution to security in Europe and Asia over the past 30 years. It should be preserved. That will require smart decisions by the Trump administration and concerted action with NATO members, which will otherwise find they are confronting a new Russian missile threat.

Saving the INF Treaty will also require a change in the Kremlin’s current course. The West should do what it can to encourage such a change.
 

ENDNOTES
 

1 Bureau of Arms Control, Verification and Compliance, U.S. Department of State, “2017 Adherence to and Compliance With Arms Control, Nonproliferation, and Disarmament Agreements and Commitments,” April 2017, pp. 13-14, http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/270603.pdf.

2 See Hans Kristensen et al., “Preserving the INF Treaty: A Special Briefing Paper,” April 24, 2017, http://deepcuts.org/files/pdf/Special_Brief_-_Deep_Cuts_INF.pdf. For information on the Deep Cuts Commission, see http://deepcuts.org/.

3 Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, “Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s Remarks and Answers to Media Questions at the Moscow Nonproliferation Conference,” October 20, 2017, http://www.mid.ru/en/press_service/minister_speeches/-/asset_publisher/7OvQR5KJWVmR/content/id/2913751.

4 Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, “Analysis of Fiscal Year 2018 National Defense Authorization Bill: HR 2810,” n.d., https://armscontrolcenter.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/NDAA-conference-analysis-111417.pdf.

5 “Warsaw Summit Communiqué,” NATO press release no. (2016) 100, July 9, 2016, para. 62, https://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/official_texts_133169.htm.

6 Matthias Gebauer, Christoph Schult, and Klaus Wiegrefe, “Alleged INF Treaty Violation; U.S. Demands NATO Action on Russian Missiles,” Spiegel Online, December 8, 2017, http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/us-delivers-ultimatum-to-nato-regarding-russian-missiles-a-1182426.html.

7 North Atlantic Treaty Organization, “Statement by the North Atlantic Council on the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty,” NATO Press Release (2017) 180, December 15, 2017, https://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/news_150016.htm.

8 For example, see Ian Anthony, “European Security After the INF Treaty,” Survival, Vol. 59, No. 6 (December 2014-January 2018): 61-76.


Steven Pifer is a nonresident senior fellow with the Brookings Institution. Oliver Meier is deputy head of the International Security Research Division at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs. Both are members of the Deep Cuts Commission, a nongovernmental group of German, Russian and U.S. experts.

 

Posted: January 10, 2018

Hypersonic Advances Spark Concern

The Defense Department in the fall conducted its latest test of a hypersonic missile, a new type of high-speed weapon that potentially holds great military promise but also great peril as the United States and other nations seeking to exploit the dizzying pace of technological advances.

January/February 2018
By Kingston Reif

The Defense Department in the fall conducted its latest test of a hypersonic missile, a new type of high-speed weapon that potentially holds great military promise but also great peril as the United States and other nations seeking to exploit the dizzying pace of technological advances.

Artist’s concept of the X-51A Waverider in flight. Powered by a Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne scramjet engine, it is designed to ride on its own shockwave and accelerate to about Mach 6 (4,500 miles per hour). (U.S. Air Force graphic)Although it could be a decade before hypersonic weapons are ready for use, U.S. military planners and contractors salivate over the prospect they could provide a game-changing military advantage. But other nations, including other nuclear-armed powers, are developing similar capabilities as they seek to counter more than 25 years of U.S. post-Cold War military dominance.

The pursuit of this emerging technology is drawing warnings that it could lead to new escalation dangers in a conflict, including to the nuclear level, and that interested countries are not giving enough attention to the potential for a dangerous arms race and increased risks of instability. To further complicate matters, hypersonic missiles could provide a new means of delivery for nuclear warheads.

Unique capabilities make hypersonic weapons more difficult to defend against than legacy missiles and “further compress the timelines for a response by a nation under attack,” according to a major 2017 Rand Corp. report, “Hypersonic Missile Nonproliferation: Hindering the Spread of a New Class of Weapons.” There is “probably less than a decade available to hinder the proliferation process,” the report says.

Hypersonic missiles can travel at approximately 5,000 to 25,000 kilometers per hour, or 1 to 5 miles per second. They can change their trajectories during flight and fly at odd altitudes. The flight altitude and maneuverability result in less warning time than in the case of higher-flying ballistic missiles. Any effort to thwart such systems would be “challenging to the best missile defenses now envisioned,” according to the Rand report.

Two types of hypersonic missiles are currently under development. A hypersonic boost-glide vehicle is fired by rockets into space and then released to fly to its target along the upper atmosphere. Unlike ballistic missiles, a boost-glide vehicle flies at a lower altitude and can change its intended target and trajectory repeatedly during its flight. The second type, a hypersonic cruise missile, is powered through its entire flight by advanced rockets or high-speed jet engines. It is a faster version of existing cruise missiles.

The United States, China, and Russia are leading the emerging race in the development of hypersonic weapons, but they are not the only countries engaged in research and development on the technology or that might seek to acquire it.

In 2003, Washington began formally pursuing options to quickly strike high-value targets with conventional weapons anywhere on the globe at the outset of or during a conflict. The effort has become known as conventional prompt strike.

Supporters inside and outside of government put forward several rationales for this mission, including countering increasingly sophisticated air and missile defense systems, destroying rogue-state nuclear forces, and targeting terrorists.

The United States conducted its first successful flight test of a boost-glide weapon in 2011, when the Army’s Advanced Hypersonic Weapon (AHW) flew for 2,400 miles from Hawaii to the Kwajalein Atoll in the Pacific Ocean.

On Oct. 30, 2017, the Navy conducted a $160 million test in the Pacific of a modified version of the AHW that could be deployed atop missiles on Virginia- or Ohio-class submarines. Additional program flight tests are planned in 2020 and 2022.

The Defense Department has spent a total of $1.2 billion on its prompt-strike program. It requested $202 million for the program in its fiscal year 2018 budget request published in May, including $197 million for the AHW.

China and Russia have not sat idle. The two countries appear to be developing the technology in part to penetrate U.S. missile defenses.

Since 2014, China has conducted at least seven tests of a hypersonic glide vehicle, which U.S defense officials call the WU-14. It is believed to have conducted one or two tests of a hypersonic cruise missile.

In addition, The Diplomat reported in December that China in November conducted two flight tests of a new, medium-range glide vehicle, dubbed the DF-17, that is intended for operational deployment as early as 2020.

Russia has repeatedly expressed concern that U.S. prompt-strike efforts could threaten the survivability of Moscow’s nuclear deterrent. Russia is engaged in its own work on hypersonic missiles, notably the Tsirkon, or Zircon, hypersonic cruise missile.

It is uncertain whether China and Russia are developing hypersonic weapons to deliver nuclear or conventional weapons.

After the United States, China, and Russia, the two governments that have made the most progress on hypersonic technology are France and India. Both are pursuing hypersonic cruise missile options. Australia, Japan, and the European Union are also pursuing research and development programs in hypersonic technology.

The most highlighted risk to strategic stability posed by hypersonic or other prompt-strike weapons armed with conventional warheads is that they could be mistaken for nuclear weapons. This could trigger a nuclear-armed country, targeted by such a conventional attack, to launch its nuclear weapons in response.

But there are arguably more significant stability concerns. For example, the deployment by nuclear-armed states of conventional hypersonic missiles could pose a threat to the survivability of their nuclear forces and potentially reduce the available response time. By increasing fears of a disarming attack, a threatened state could take steps that would increase crisis instability, such as increasing the readiness of its nuclear forces or adopting a policy of pre-emption.

Chinese and Russian officials and analysts have expressed concerns about this type of scenario.

Further, the advent of hypersonic weapons could increase the growing risks of inadvertent escalation related to the “entanglement” of non-nuclear weapons with nuclear weapons and their supporting capabilities, such as command-and-control functions. Given that the actual targets of a hypersonic missile attack might not be apparent until the last minutes of flight, a state could misattribute an attack aimed at its conventional forces as an attack against its nuclear forces nearby.

The proliferation of hypersonic weapons beyond the United States, China, and Russia could exacerbate stability concerns. The Rand study noted that the spread of the weapons “could result in lesser powers setting their strategic forces on hair-trigger states of readiness and more credibly being able to threaten attacks on major powers.”

Experts concerned about the risks to stability have proposed ideas to mitigate them. For instance, as a unilateral step, countries developing these missiles could make escalation risks a key factor in the decision about whether to acquire and deploy the weapons.

James Acton, co-director of the nuclear policy program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, told Arms Control Today in a Dec. 21 interview that the U.S. hypersonic program is technology driven and the Pentagon has not adequately explained why it needs such a capability or assessed the benefits, risks, and costs.

Cooperative steps also could be pursued, although progress does not appear likely in the near term given tensions among the major powers. As one idea, the United States could initiate separate dialogues with China and Russia on stability and escalation concerns and on developing confidence-building measures. Such measures could include data exchanges on hypersonic deployment and acquisition plans.

In addition, the three countries could agree to multilateral export controls to restrain the proliferation of hypersonic technology.

More far-reaching measures could also be contemplated. In a report published last November by the Carnegie Endowment, Russian scholars Alexey Arbatov, Vladimir Dvorkin, and Petr Topychkanov urged the inclusion of intercontinental boost-glide systems under the central limits of a successor to the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START).

Some analysts have called for enacting a moratorium on hypersonic testing and eventually establishing a test ban treaty. Mark Gubrud, a physicist and adjunct assistant professor in the peace, war, and defense curriculum at the University of North Carolina, has written that a test ban would be “a simple, risk-free, and highly verifiable way” to avoid “a new round of an old arms race.”

But Acton told Arms Control Today he is skeptical about the feasibility of a test ban. He noted that there is no clear dividing line between boost-glide vehicles and terminally guided ballistic missiles, such as the Chinese DF-21, which maneuvers to its target after re-entering the atmosphere. “If all maneuvering re-entry vehicles are banned,” Acton said, “China will never sign up.”

Posted: January 10, 2018

The North Korean Missile Crisis

The nuclear danger posed by North Korea is not new. But as Trump readies for a trip to East Asia, the crisis enters a critical phase.

The nuclear danger posed by North Korea is not new. But since the arrival of Donald Trump in the White House, a bad situation has become far worse. Now, as Trump readies for a trip to East Asia, the crisis enters a critical phase.

This July 28, 2017 picture released from North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on July 29, 2017 shows North Korea's intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), Hwasong-14 being lauched at an undisclosed place in North Korea. Kim Jong-Un boasted of North Korea's ability to strike any target in the US after a second ICBM test that weapons experts said could even bring New York into range - in a potent challenge to US President Donald Trump. (Photo: STR/AFP/Getty Images)The risk of conflict through miscalculation by either side now may be as severe as during the tense days of October 1962, when the United States and the Soviet Union nearly went to war over the deployment of Soviet missiles in Cuba.

Now, as then, miscalculation could lead to war and escalation to the nuclear level. Millions of lives in South and North Korea and Japan are at risk. Each side must refrain from further threats and taunts and open a direct, private, and high-level diplomatic channel of communication.

Earlier this year, the Trump administration said its North Korea policy would involve “maximum pressure and engagement.” Since then, we have seen pressure, reckless rhetoric, and threats, not engagement.

North Korea responded with accelerated ballistic missile testing, including two intercontinental-range tests. That led China, North Korea’s major trading partner, to announced it was halting imports of coal, iron, and lead from North Korea.

On Sept. 3, North Korea conducted its sixth and largest nuclear test—a thermonuclear blast having a yield of 150 to 250 kilotons. In response, China and Russia voted for new sanctions at the UN Security Council. China’s central bank has also instructed other Chinese banks to stop providing financial services to North Korea.

In his inaugural address to the United Nations on Sept. 19, Trump worsened the situation. “We will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea” if it threatens U.S. allies in the region, he said. Trump has ordered regular B1-B strategic bomber flights near North Korea, which Pyongyang sees as a prelude to war. He called North Korea’s authoritarian leader, Kim Jong Un, a “rocket man” on “a suicide mission.”

In his clumsy style, Trump appears to be trying to intimidate Kim. But the history of the nuclear age has shown that 
smaller states, even those without nuclear weapons, are not easily intimidated by U.S. nuclear threats. North Korea is 
no exception.

To show Pyongyang’s determination, Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho warned that North Korea might conduct a hydrogen bomb test explosion over the Pacific. Ri claims that the United States has effectively declared war on his country and therefore North Korea reserves the right to shoot down any U.S. aircraft that fly over or near its territory.

In October 1962, President John F. Kennedy worked very hard to carefully coordinate all U.S. government messages and signals toward Moscow so U.S. intentions were clear. He exchanged direct, private messages with his Soviet counterpart, Nikita Khrushchev, to seek a way out of the crisis. Kennedy was careful not to rule out certain compromises that would later prove to be essential to resolving the crisis.

But Trump is no Kennedy. The lack of discipline and coordination shown by the Trump administration greatly increases the risk factor. “I think there’s a 10 percent chance the wheels really come off, and we have a full-on war on the Korean peninsula, which would include nuclear use,” warned former NATO Supreme Allied Commander James Stavridis on Sept. 28.

Nikki Haley, U.S. ambassador to the UN, and other U.S. officials have unwisely knocked down Chinese proposals to de-escalate tensions that would involve North Korea halting further nuclear and missile tests in exchange for the United States pausing certain military exercises that North Korea sees as particularly threatening.

If each side can refrain from further threats, it may still be possible for a direct U.S.-North Korean dialogue, without preconditions, that sets a new course toward a negotiated or brokered agreement that addresses the concerns of the international community and the security concerns of North Korea.

A commonsense first step would be an immediate halt to further North Korean nuclear and intermediate- or long-range ballistic missile tests and U.S. military exercises and maneuvers that could be interpreted to be practice runs for an attack.

Given that neither Kim nor Trump has ever been known to publicly back down, however, an outside diplomatic intervention may be in order. The UN secretary-general could convene an emergency, closed-door meeting with senior leaders from the members of the past six-party talks (China, Japan, North Korea, Russia, South Korea, and the United States) and initiate a serious dialogue designed to lower tensions and address issues of mutual concern. A trusted emissary from a third party, such as the Vatican, could pursue shuttle diplomacy. Alternatively, Trump could authorize a personal representative to meet with a senior representative of Kim to work out a plan to reduce tensions.

As Kennedy said 55 years ago following the Cuban missile crisis, “Above all, while defending our own vital interests, nuclear powers must avert those confrontations which bring an adversary to the choice of either a humiliating defeat or a nuclear war.”


The monthly “Focus” editorials from Arms Control Today are available for reprint on a non-exclusive basis
with permission from the Arms Control Association and link to the original publication online.

 

Posted: November 1, 2017

Urgent Need to De-escalate Tensions Between Washington and Pyongyang

Sections:

Body: 

Statement from Executive Director Daryl G. Kimball

For Immediate Release: September 22, 2017

Media Contacts: Daryl G. Kimball, executive director, (202) 463-8270 ext. 107; Kelsey Davenport, director for nonproliferation policy, (202) 463-8270 ext. 102

(WASHINGTON, D.C.)—The escalating crisis over North Korea’s nuclear and missile tests has now reached an extremely dangerous level. The risk of conflict through miscalculation by either side is unacceptably high.

Mr.Ri Yong Ho, Foreign Ministrer of the Democratic People's Republic of KoreaWe are alarmed and strongly condemn the unecessary and provocative threat of massive retaliation against Pyongyang by President Donald Trump in his UN address on Sept. 19, and we condemn in the strongest possible terms the suggestion by the Foreign Minister of the DPRK on Sept. 22 that his government may conduct a nuclear test explosion in or over the Pacific Ocean in reaction to Mr. Trump’s remarks.

Such a nuclear test would be a threat not just to the United States, but would be a global security and health threat to the entire international community, which has prohibited all nuclear test explosions through the 1996 Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. A nuclear test explosion over the Pacific could trigger events that escalate even further beyond the control of Washington and Pyongyang.

We strongly appeal to key leaders in the region, particularly the United States and North Korea, to immediately take steps ease tensions and refrain from making any further threats of nuclear or missile tests or military action of any kind. Each side must chose their words very carefully and seek open direct channel of communication to avoid miscommunication and miscalculation. The current path being pursued by both sides leads to catastrophe.

We call on the UN Secretary-General to convene a series of emergency, closed-door meetings with senior leaders from the members of Six-Party-Talks to intiate a serious dialogue designed to lower tensions and address issues of mutual concern.

US Special Representative for North Korea Policy Joseph Yun (L) talks with South Korea's representative to the six-party talks, Kim Hong-Kyun (R), during their meeting at the foreign ministry in Seoul on March 22, 2017. The meeting came as a new North Korean missile test failed on March 22, according to the South's defence ministry, two weeks after Pyongyang launched four rockets in what it called a drill for an attack on US bases in Japan. (Photo: JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images)It is past time for a direct dialogue, without preconditions, that sets a new course — toward a negotiated or brokered agreement that addresses the concerns of the international community and the security concerns of the DPRK. Such a course begins with an immediate halt to further nuclear test explosions and intermediate- or long-range ballistic missile tests and any military exercises that could be interpreted to be practice runs for an attack.

As President John F. Kennedy said following the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis: “Above all, while defending our own vital interests, nuclear powers must avert those confrontations which bring an adversary to the choice of either a humiliating defeat or a nuclear war.”

Now is the time to back away from edge of a conflict that could escalate to the nuclear level all too quickly.


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Posted: September 22, 2017

U.S. Policy on North Korea: More Pressure, But Where’s the “Engagement?”

The UN Security Council responded to North Korea’s two intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) tests in July by unanimously passing new sanctions on North Korea over the weekend. But without a more concerted effort to engage Pyongyang in negotiations, these measures stand little chance of altering North Korea’s nuclear calculus. While the additional Security Council sanctions in Resolution 2371 send a strong signal to North Korea that there are consequences for flouting international prohibitions, sanctions alone are not a strategy for addressing the North Korean nuclear threat. It is past...

North Korea’s New Missile Tests South Korea

North Korea’s New Missile Tests South Korea

June 2017

By Kelsey Davenport

North Korea’s test of a ballistic missile capable of longer ranges poses an immediate challenge to newly elected South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who campaigned on an engagement-oriented approach to dealing with Pyongyang. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is showing no sign of making that easy as he continues to defy international demands that he halt nuclear weapons activities and missile testing.

The missile tested May 14 is a new system that North Korea debuted a month earlier at its parade celebrating the nation’s founder, Kim Il Sung. (See ACT, May 2017.) Known as the Hwasong-12, the missile likely is an intermediate-range ballistic missile, meaning its range is between 3,000 and 5,500 kilometers, which would put Guam within striking distance but fall short of reaching the continental United States. The test was intended to verify “the tactical and technological specifications” for a system “capable of carrying a large-size heavy nuclear weapon,” the state-run Korean Central News Agency said.

This May 14 picture from the official Korean Central News Agency shows leader Kim Jong Un inspecting a Hwasong-12 ballistic missile before a test launch. The test was intended to verify “the tactical and technological specifications” for a system “capable of carrying a large-size heavy nuclear weapon,” according to the state-run news agency. (Photo credit: Stringer/AFP/Getty Images)North Korea tested the missile at a lofted trajectory, so it flew higher than a normal flight pattern and traveled about 700 kilometers to splash down in the Sea of Japan. David Wright, co-director of the Global Security Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists, used data from the test to calculate a 4,800-kilometer range at a standard ballistic missile trajectory, according to his organization’s blog, “All Things Nuclear.” The lofted trajectory was likely used to avoid the missile splashing down too close to another country.

The test came just four days after Moon won South Korea’s presidential election on May 10. He was sworn in immediately to fill the vacancy left by Park Geun-hye, who was impeached in December 2016.

Moon described the missile test as “deeply regrettable” and a violation of UN Security Council resolutions that prohibit North Korea from testing ballistic missiles. Despite saying that South Korea must “act decisively against North Korean provocations,” Moon said he remains open to dialogue with North Korea when Pyongyang “changes its attitude.” That dialogue cannot begin while North Korea continues to conduct ballistic missile tests, he said.

Moon’s openness to talks with Pyongyang marks a change from Park’s more hard-line policy toward North Korea. Moon has described his policy as moving away from the “pressure only” to “pressure with pragmatic engagement.”

For instance, Moon has suggested that he might reopen the Kaesong Industrial Complex. Kaesong, located on the North Korean side of the border, provides space for South Korean companies to manufacture products using North Korean labor. The complex was closed in 2016 during a period of increased tensions between Pyongyang and Seoul following nuclear and missile tests by North Korea.

The Unification Ministry in South Korea also called May 17 for re-establishing the hotline between North Korea and South Korea. North Korea cut off the hotline in February 2016 in response to the closing of Kaesong.

Pressure Plus

Moon’s approach of pressure plus engagement sounds similar to the policy approach of “maximum pressure plus engagement” described by the United States after the Trump administration completed its policy review on North Korea. (See ACT, May 2017.) Moon, however, opposes U.S. talk about using military force without South Korean consent if diplomacy fails.

North Korea has pressed for talks with the United States without preconditions that it halt nuclear and missile activities. North Korean diplomat Choe Son Hui told reporters in Beijing on May 13 that Pyongyang would talk to the United States “if the conditions are there.” Choe did not specify what conditions North Korea is expecting from Washington and did not speculate on whether North Korea would reach out to South Korea for talks.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson reiterated the U.S. policy toward North Korea when meeting with South Korea’s special presidential envoy, Hong Seok-hyun, on May 18. Tillerson was reported in the South Korean press as saying that talks with North Korea can begin if Pyongyang refrains from nuclear and missile testing and is willing to trust that Washington not undertake hostile acts toward it.

Newly elected South Korean President Moon Jae-in greets supporters in Seoul after his victory was confirmed May 9. (Photo credit: Jean Chung/Getty Images)Washington’s statement after the missile test, however, took a more strident tone. The White House statement on May 13 called North Korea a “flagrant menace” and said all states must implement stronger sanctions against North Korea. The statement also noted Washington’s “ironclad commitment” to U.S. allies.

Moon will come to Washington in late June for a summit with U.S. President Donald Trump. In announcing the summit, Moon’s office said on May 16 that the two states will look for “bold and practical” steps to take on North Korea.

UN Security Council President Elbio Rosselli of Uruguay issued a statement on behalf of all 15 members that “strongly condemned” North Korea’s ballistic missile launch. The May 15 statement called for Pyongyang to end its ballistic missile tests and for all UN member states to enforce sanctions on North Korea.

Nikki Haley, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, told reporters ahead of a May 16 consultation on North Korea that the United States is ready to “tighten the screws” on Pyongyang and will target sanctions against any country that is “supplying or supporting North Korea.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin also condemned the missile test and said on May 15 that Moscow is “categorically against the expansion of the club of nuclear states, including through the Korean Peninsula.” But Putin, who was on a trip to China at the time, said that “intimidating” North Korea was not the right path forward.

Missile Defense

Moon’s administration may review the decision to deploy the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system in South Korea. The missile defense system became operational on May 2, according to U.S. officials.

Despite the operational status of the system, U.S. national security adviser H.R. McMaster said that he was aware that there were procedural concerns over the THAAD deployment.

McMaster’s comments came after Hong told him that South Korea’s National Assembly  needed to discuss the THAAD deployment. Moon made comments to that effect, namely that the correct procedure was not followed for deciding to deploy the THAAD system, during his campaign.

The United States and South Korea agreed on the THAAD deployment in July 2016 to the displeasure of China and Russia. (See ACT, September 2016.)

South Korea is working on its own ballistic missile defense, known as the Korea Air and Missile Defense System. Moon told the military to speed up development of the system after the North Korean ballistic missile test on May 14.

Posted: May 31, 2017

India Tests Two Missiles

India Tests Two Missiles

India conducted two missile tests last month, with the super­sonic Brahmos cruise missile recording a success but the Agni-2 ballistic missile test aborted. The tests were on May 2 and 4, respectively.

The Brahmos, jointly developed by India and Russia, has several variants. The May 2 test was a land-attack version with a range of 450 kilometers, which is longer than the 290-kilometer range of the original system. The missile was launched from a mobile launcher and tested in steep-dive mode. Indian officials said the test was a success and noted that the missile hit its target with the desired precision. The nuclear-capable Agni-2 is a two-stage, solid-fueled system. It is capable of delivering a 1,000 kilogram payload over a range of 2,000 kilometers. An Indian official was quoted in The Times of India as saying “things went awry” during the May 4 test after half a kilometer and was aborted. The Agni-2 is deployed, but has not been tested for several years.—DANIELLE PRESKITT

Posted: May 31, 2017

Would More Sanctions Sway North Korea?

Better enforcement of sanctions could curb Pyongyang’s access to the materials and technologies necessary for advancing its nuclear and missile programs.

April 2017

By Kelsey Davenport

The United States is considering broader sanctions on North Korea, although it is unclear how effective the additional measures will be in curbing Pyongyang’s expanding nuclear and ballistic missile programs and in pushing North Korea to negotiate restrictions on these programs.

Absent a broader strategy, clear objectives, and consistent implementation, additional sanctions are unlikely to change North Korea’s behavior. Focusing on implementation of existing measures, however, could help disrupt the illicit networks Pyongyang uses to circumvent sanctions and import and export restricted goods.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visits the Sohae Satellite Launching Station for a test of a new high-thrust rocket engine in a photo released by the state-run Korean Central News Agency on March 19. (Photo credit: STR/AFP/Getty Images)The accelerating pace of North Korea’s ballistic missile and nuclear weapons programs is bringing renewed urgency to efforts to pressure Pyongyang to return to denuclearization negotiations before it tests a nuclear-capable intercontinental ballistic missile, which President Donald Trump indicated in a January tweet would cross what he considers a red line. “It won’t happen,” he declared in the three-word tweet, and he has met several times since then with his national security team to develop a new strategy on North Korea.

Trump has yet to provide details on his administration’s overall North Korea strategy or the role that sanctions will play in achieving his objectives. If Trump chooses to pursue talks, his administration has various options, such as seeking an interim agreement designed to freeze North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs until a more comprehensive agreement is reached or negotiating a denuclearization agreement at the outset. Absent a clear objective for the sanctions regime, it will be difficult to assess the value of additional restrictions, although there is some value in imposing sanctions to demonstrate to Pyongyang that there is a cost to flouting its international obligations.

Pyongyang is already subject to UN sanctions for its continued development of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles in defiance of UN Security Council prohibitions, including Resolutions 2270 and 2321, passed in 2016 in response to North Korean nuclear tests. Some countries, including the United States, have imposed their own sanctions on Pyongyang for these activities.

The Trump administration and Congress are considering additional sanctions in response to recent North Korean provocations such as its missile launches on Feb. 12 and March 6. (See ACT, March 2017.) A senior U.S. official was quoted by Reuters on March 21 saying that the administration is considering “broad sanctions” against North Korea that may include measures to increase pressure on Chinese banks and firms that do business with Pyongyang.

This is consistent with recent comments from Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. Tillerson said in his confirmation hearings in January that he supported additional sanctions to fill gaps in the existing sanctions regime on North Korea. During a March 17 press conference in Seoul, he told reporters that “all options are on the table” for dealing with North Korea’s nuclear activities, ranging from sanctions to pre-emptive military action.

Members of Congress are also calling for additional restrictions. In a Feb. 14 letter to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Sens. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas) called for the United States to take actions that, if enforced, “could more effectively cut off North Korea’s access to the hard currency it uses to finance its illicit nuclear program.” The suggested actions include investigating whether North Korea “merits re-designation as a state sponsor of terrorism,” enforcing penalties against banks that provide correspondent services to North Korean banks, denying North Korean banks access to financial messaging services, investigating Chinese banks that conduct transactions with North Korea for violations of U.S. law, and freezing assets of any Chinese entity with assets in the United States that is importing coal from North Korea. Four other Republicans signed the letter.

Limited Benefit

Pursuing additional sanctions may not be the best tactic for influencing North Korean behavior, particularly given the poor enforcement of existing measures. Andrei Lankov, a professor at Kookmin University in Seoul, said on March 21 at the Carnegie Nuclear Policy Conference that “sanctions are highly unlikely to work” and noted that, despite an uptick in restrictions on Pyongyang, North Korea’s economy is improving under Kim Jong Un.

Andrea Berger, a senior program manager at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, said at the same event that assessing the sanctions’ effectiveness depends on their objectives. She said sanctions have not been very effective in encouraging North Korea to resume negotiations on its nuclear program, but noted that there are critical subsidiary objectives for sanctions, such as preventing North Korea from accessing technologies for its programs and stemming North Korea’s illicit trade networks.

The Obama administration’s approach to North Korea put a return to negotiations on denuclearization as the objective of the sanctions regime. The policy, known as strategic patience, included increasing pressure on Pyongyang through sanctions, while stating a willingness to resume negotiations after North Korea takes steps toward denuclearization.

One expert on North Korea sanctions, who formerly served on a Security Council panel of experts in charge of assessing implementation of UN sanctions, criticized the Obama administration’s approach. In a March 21 email, he said that, without “buy-in on enforcing sanctions” from the international community and “an offer of carrots” for Pyongyang, sanctions alone were unlikely to influence North Korean behavior.

The expert, who asked not to be named because he holds a position in government, said he is not optimistic that sanctions would work any better for a Trump administration, particularly prior to developing a strategy toward North Korea. He said that “sanctions are tool, and tools work best if you know what you’re trying to build” and Trump does not have a clear plan.

Enhancing Enforcement

Although there may be limits to the effectiveness of additional sanctions, focusing on enforcement of existing measures could curb Pyongyang’s access to the materials and technologies necessary for advancing its nuclear and missile programs.

North Korea has developed a range of domestic capabilities for producing sensitive dual-use technologies, but it still relies on imports of certain technologies for its rockets. Analysis of debris recovered by South Korea from the rocket used by North Korea to launch a satellite in February 2016 shows that Pyongyang is using certain components sourced to foreign countries, including pressure transmitters manufactured in the United Kingdom.

Berger also described the current sanctions regime as “a sieve” and said that the focus should be on building capacity to enforce existing measures, such as ensuring that countries have the domestic legal frameworks for implementing UN measures.

China is frequently cited for poor enforcement of UN sanctions on North Korea. China accounts for about 80 percent of North Korea’s trade and has tended to resist moves in the Security Council to increase sanctions, in part reflecting its long-standing concerns about triggering instability and a humanitarian crisis in the neighboring country.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson shakes hands with South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se during a press conference on March 17 in Seoul. (Photo credit: Song Kyung-Seok-Pool/Getty Images)Beijing has complied recently with caps set by UN Security Council sanctions on imports of North Korean coal, Pyongyang’s largest export item. China said in February that it was suspending all imports of coal from North Korea for the rest of the year.

But the former panel member said that it is too early to say if Beijing’s compliance is “merely cosmetic or signals a shift” in sanctions enforcement. He noted although coal imports from North Korea were cut, China continued its imports of certain metals in early 2017. Security Council Resolution 2321, passed in September 2016, bans countries from importing copper, nickel, silver, and zinc from North Korea. In assessing China’s performance, he said, the “real test is time.”

China is not the only country that can take steps to enhance enforcement of UN sanctions. Only 76 states reported to the Security Council on their implementation of the March 2016 sanctions resolution on North Korea. That is an increase in reporting since the prior resolution, but a majority of states fail to provide information about efforts to implement UN restrictions.

The most recent report from the panel of experts that assesses implementation of UN sanctions for the Security Council recommended steps to improve global compliance. One was that countries “rigorously implement the now legally binding ‘catch-all’ provision for items which could contribute to the country’s nuclear or ballistic missile programmes.”

Another former member of the panel of experts, George A. Lopez, wrote in a March 13 column for the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists that the February report’s recommendations “go beyond the weak, oft-heard call that nations must increase their vigilance in enforcing sanctions.”

Lopez noted that the report recommends that states “clarify their methods of implementing sanctions where trade in minerals is concerned; share more information regarding cases of sanctions evasion; and regularly update their lists of companies and ships that adopt aliases to avoid identification as they pursue illicit activities.”

South Korea Gets Missile Defense System

A U.S.-supplied missile defense battery for South Korea is scheduled to become operational as soon as this month, amid growing tensions with North Korea, opposition from China, and mixed signals about how a new government in Seoul will view the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system. 

The arrival of the THAAD components in early March occurred over the objections of China, which describes the deployment as a provocative move. Beijing’s concern, in part, is that the system’s powerful radar would enable the United States to quickly detect and track Chinese missile launches. The United States denies that THAAD deployments to South Korea and Japan pose a threat to the security of China, which has shown its displeasure by curtailing some business and tourism ties with South Korea.

The THAAD system is intended to provide a limited defense for South Korea from North Korean ballistic missile attacks. That threat was highlighted by Pyongyang’s missile tests during March as the United States and South Korea conducted joint military exercises in which about 3,600 U.S. service members were deployed to join the 28,000 U.S. troops already based in South Korea. 

With South Korea due to hold presidential elections May 9, frontrunner Moon Jae-in has sought to smooth relations with China and signaled that if he wins, his government would review the deployment. A negative decision by the liberal Korean politician would mark a rift with the United States, which is committed to defending South Korea under a mutual defense treaty. 

Meanwhile, the Trump administration is trying to formulate a new North Korea policy that would end years of diplomatic stalemate while the country had advanced its missile and nuclear weapons capabilities in defiance of UN Security Council prohibitions. The issue has become more urgent as leader Kim Jong Un has increased his country’s production of nuclear weapons and is seeking the capability to extend his threats to the continental United States with a nuclear-armed intercontinental ballistic missile. 

The Trump administration has abandoned the Obama administration’s policy of “strategic patience,” which envisioned out-waiting Pyongyang while ratcheting up pressure on North Korea through sanctions and covert actions, without a decision on what will take its place.

“Let me be very clear: the policy of strategic patience has ended,” U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said March 17 in Seoul, during a trip that included consultation in Tokyo and Beijing. “We are exploring a new range of diplomatic, security, and economic measures. All options are on the table. North Korea must understand that the only path to a secure, economically prosperous future is to abandon its development of nuclear weapons, ballistic missiles, and other weapons of mass destruction.”

North Korea gave no indication that it is impressed by such talk, firing back with threats of its own and a publicized test of a new, high-powered rocket engine under the watchful eye of Kim himself. The test on March 18 coincided with Tillerson’s talks with Chinese leaders in Beijing, timing that amounted to a rebuff of the pressures from the United States and China, its main economic lifeline and ally.

Kim’s actions raise the stakes for the meeting tentatively planned for early April between Chinese President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Donald Trump at his Mar-a-Lago resort. Trump has criticized China repeatedly for not doing enough to pressure Kim to return to negotiations on denuclearization. 

Standing alongside Tillerson in Beijing, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi reflected his government’s concerns about the Trump administration when he urged the United States to be “cool headed” in order to “arrive at a wise decision.”

Posted: March 31, 2017

The P5+1 And Iran Nuclear Deal Alert, March 10

IAEA Board Meets, Discusses Iran Iran’s nuclear program was a topic at this week’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Board of Governors meeting in Vienna. The 35-member board met March 6-10 to discuss a range of topics including the IAEA’s monitoring of Iran’s nuclear program under the July 2015 deal known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Andrew Schofer, charge d’ affaires at the U.S. mission to international organizations in Vienna, delivered Washington’s statement at the meeting. The statement referenced the “essential” role of the IAEA’s monitoring activities in...

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