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"ACA's journal, Arms Control Today, remains the best in the market. Well focused. Solidly researched. Prudent."

– Hans Blix
Former IAEA Director-General
Daryl Kimball

Take Action: Remind President Biden of his Pledge on Nuclear Weapons

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On the 2020 campaign trail, candidate Joe Biden promised to reduce the role of nuclear weapons, advance nuclear arms control, and declare that "the sole purpose of nuclear weapons is to deter nuclear attack,” similar to a no-first-use pledge. Please urge your Members of Congress to remind Presdident Biden to stick to his pledge. (November 2021)

Arms Control Association Says China’s Nuclear Buildup Deeply Troubling

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Calls for Start of Talks on Arms Control and Risk Reduction
to Head Off Dangerous Arms Race

Statement by Daryl G. Kimball, Executive Director

For Immediate Release: Nov. 3, 2021

Media Contacts: Daryl Kimball, 202-463-8270, ext. 107; Shannon Bugos, 202-463-8270, ext. 113

(Washington, D.C.)—The Defense Department’s annual China Military Power report released today confirms what statements from department officials and revelations from nongovernmental organizations this year had already suggested: China appears be on the cusp of a significant and very concerning nuclear weapons buildup that exceeds the department’s earlier projections.

In our view, China’s nuclear advances and the increasingly competitive relationship with the United States make it more important than ever that Beijing agrees to engage in a meaningful dialogue on arms control and risk reduction. There are no winners in a nuclear war and there are no winners in a nuclear arms race. It is in the mutual interest of the United States and China to head off unconstrained nuclear weapons competition in the years ahead.

Last year, the Pentagon said that China could, over the next decade, at least double an operational nuclear warhead stockpile numbering in the low-200s. This year’s report projects that Beijing “may … have up to 700 deliverable nuclear warheads by 2027,” an estimate which appears contingent on the construction by China of new fast breeder reactors and reprocessing facilities. The report adds that China “likely intends to have at least 1,000 warheads by 2030.”

The report also highlights China’s apparent plans to expand the size and diversity of its nuclear delivery platforms (including through the construction of hundreds of new land-based intercontinental ballistic missile silos) and enhance the readiness of is nuclear forces.

China’s deeply troubling pursuit of a larger and more capable nuclear arsenal and complete lack of transparency about its nuclear force plans calls into question China’s longstanding minimum nuclear deterrence policy and is likely to exacerbate tensions with the United States and undermine stability in the Asia-Pacific region.

Beijing cannot credibly claim that its nuclear weapons buildup comports with its legal obligations under Article VI of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) to “pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament.” The failure of the five nuclear-armed nuclear weapon states-parties of the NPT to follow through on their disarmament commitments in recent years will be a major sticking point at the January 2022 NPT Review Conference.

The United States and China in particular need to start a regular and meaningful arms control and risk reduction dialogue to help avoid a dangerous arms race and a crisis that could lead to a catastrophic war and even the possible use of nuclear weapons.

The Biden administration has repeatedly expressed its desire to commence a dialogue on strategic stability and nuclear risk reduction with Beijing. But thus far, China has stubbornly and illogically rebuffed the proposal. As a nuclear-weapon state party to the NPT, China needs to engage in the nuclear risk reduction and disarmament enterprise sooner rather than later.

Meanwhile, as the Biden administration continues to conduct a review of U.S. nuclear weapons policy scheduled to be completed in early 2022, it must keep the growing Chinese nuclear threat in perspective and resist alarmist calls by some to augment the United States own planned nuclear weapons spending spree.

Even if China were to decide to increase its nuclear stockpile to roughly 1,000 warheads, it would still be smaller than the current U.S. stockpile of about 3,750 active nuclear warheads. Claims that China could soon achieve nuclear overmatch against the United States are wildly overstated.

The longstanding U.S. position of nuclear superiority over China and unwillingness to acknowledge mutual vulnerability to nuclear attack has not brought Beijing to the negotiating table nor dissuaded it from modernizing its arsenal.

To make matters worse, the Trump administration’s proposed expansion of the capability of the U.S. nuclear arsenal, its one-sided demand for Chinese nuclear restraint, and threats to “spend China into oblivion” have been met by an accelerated pace of Chinese nuclear expansion.

The United States cannot “arms race its way out” of the challenge China’s nuclear arsenal poses.

In fact, the United States already maintains a nuclear arsenal in excess to what is necessary to deter a nuclear attack and extend deterrence to allies. Planned U.S. spending on nuclear weapons poses a major threat to security priorities more relevant to countering Beijing and assuring allies, such as pandemic defense and response as well as pacing China’s advancing conventional military capabilities.

The factors driving China’s pursuit of a nuclear buildup are unclear but likely multifaceted. Whether China implements the projected buildup over the next several years remains to be seen and is likely to be influenced by the trajectory of the overall U.S.-China strategic relationship, U.S. and allied regional military deployments, and advances in U.S. long-range conventional strike and missile defense capabilities.

Indeed, the Pentagon has repeatedly noted that U.S. missile defense capabilities contribute to China’s nuclear threat perceptions. The November 2020 U.S. test of a sea-based missile interceptor against an ICBM-class target has likely deepened China’s concerns about the potential future vulnerability of its strategic nuclear forces.

The Biden administration, and Congress, must avoid taking steps that would compound nuclear tensions with China and give Beijing a cynical excuse to expand its arsenal.

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The executive director is calling for the start of talks on arms control and risk reduction to head off a dangerous arms race.

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Toward a Successful NPT Review


November 2021
By Daryl G. Kimball

Twenty-six years ago, as states-parties negotiated the terms for the extension of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), the future of the treaty was not assured.

UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson opens the 2015 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty Review Conference in New York on April 27, 2015. (Photo: United Nations)Yet at the 1995 NPT Review and Extension Conference, the world came together, committed to the “complete elimination of nuclear weapons,” and endorsed specific disarmament actions that led to the indefinite extension of this bedrock agreement to reduce the nuclear danger. Additional commitments were made at the 2000 and 2010 review conferences to advance implementation and compliance with all three pillars of the treaty.

But since at least 2010, the nuclear disarmament process has stalled; and the five NPT nuclear-armed states (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) cannot credibly claim they are meeting their NPT Article VI disarmament obligations.

NPT states-parties at the 10th review conference, set for Jan. 2–28, will need to come together on many key issues, including strengthening nuclear safeguards and addressing regional proliferation issues. But the success of this pivotal meeting will hinge, more than anything, on whether and how they can develop an updated, disarmament action plan.

Tensions among the world’s nuclear-armed states are rising, the risk of nuclear use is growing, and hundreds of billions of dollars are being spent to replace and upgrade nuclear arsenals. To varying degrees, the nuclear-armed states are engaged in a qualitative arms race.

In February, at the last moment, U.S. President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin extended the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) through 2025. In July, they relaunched a dialogue that could evolve into nuclear disarmament talks. But if they fail to promptly conclude new agreements that limit offensive nuclear weapons and strategic missile interceptors, there will be no legally binding constraints on the world’s two largest arsenals.

Meanwhile, China, France, and the UK are not part of any serious nuclear disarmament discussion; and there is growing evidence that China is preparing to double or triple its long-range, nuclear-armed ballistic missile force.

Due to the growing nuclear disarmament deficit, the NPT regime is once again at a crossroads.

All states need to approach the next NPT review conference with a sense of urgency, a spirit of cooperation, and a determination to produce meaningful results that transcend old fault lines.

Some NPT nuclear-armed states may bemoan the fact that the environment for disarmament progress is “challenging.” We can expect they will continue to claim that many past NPT commitments on disarmament have been overtaken by events. Disarmament progress has never been simple or easy, but such deflections are irresponsible.

Instead, the five nuclear-armed NPT states should acknowledge their past disarmament commitments, work with other states-parties on a pragmatic action plan that sets new benchmarks and deadlines, and pledge to act with the urgency that the grave nuclear weapons threat demands.

To create a more constructive atmosphere, these five states must refrain from further specious attacks against the 2017 Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) and its many supporters. They should acknowledge that the TPNW exists and that supporters consider it to be a contribution to meeting NPT Article VI obligations.

Notwithstanding the different views on how to fulfill those obligations, nuclear-armed and non-nuclear-weapon states should cooperate on a serious disarmament action plan that could include the key elements below.

  • A call for the United States and Russia to conclude talks on New START follow-on agreements that achieve further cuts in nuclear warheads and delivery systems no later than 2025.
  • A pledge by the five NPT nuclear-armed states to freeze the size of their nuclear arsenals and by all states to halt the production of fissile material for military purposes.
  • A call for NPT states to begin disarmament talks in a bilateral or a multilateral format no later than 2025.
  • A call for the remaining holdout states to initiate their respective processes to ratify the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty by 2025.
  • A call for all states to forswear the introduction of nuclear-armed cruise and hypersonic missiles.
  • A recognition that any use of nuclear weapons would produce catastrophic humanitarian consequences and that “a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.”

In the absence of coherent and constructive leadership from the nuclear-weapon states, other responsible NPT states-parties need to fill the void to achieve a good NPT conference outcome.

Germany, Kazakhstan, Sweden, and others have made strides toward a common framework on the next steps on nuclear disarmament. Leaders of the humanitarian initiative on nuclear weapons and the Non-Aligned Movement also have a role to play.

Now is the time to bolster the NPT's disarmament pillar.

Twenty-six years ago, at the 1995 review conference on the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), the future of the treaty was not asssured. But the states-parties committed to the “complete elimination of nuclear weapons” and endorsed specific disarmament actions that led to the indefinite extension of this treaty. But since at least 2010, the nuclear disarmament process has stalled, and the NPT regime is once again at a crossroads.

The Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism

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Executive Summary · Report Overview · Resources · Country List
GICNT
Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism
MTCR
Missile Technology Control Regime
PSI
Proliferation Security Initiative
NSG
Nuclear Suppliers Group
G7
Global Partnership


The Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism (GICNT) is a joint U.S.-Russian initiative launched in 2006 to prevent acts of nuclear terrorism. U.S. President George W. Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin committed to forming the initiative based on their shared concern that nuclear terrorism is one of the most dangerous security challenges facing the international community.

The initial 13 countries that attended the first meeting to form the GICNT agreed on a Statement of Principles comprised of eight different points aimed at developing capacities to combat nuclear terrorism on a “determined and systematic basis, consistent with national legal authorities and obligations.” The eight principles include improving the accounting and control of nuclear materials, securing civilian nuclear facilities, detecting illicit trafficking of nuclear materials, strengthening legal frameworks for prosecution of acts of nuclear terrorism, and improving the capabilities of participants to mitigate, respond to, and investigate acts of nuclear terrorism. The GICNT accomplishes these through activities aimed at strengthening the “plans, policies, procedures, and interoperability of partner nations.”

Members of the GICNT. **Several GICNT member states do not appear on this map. These countries are: Cabo Verde, Malta, Mauritius, Palau, Seychelles, and Singapore.

 

The U.S. and Russia have remained co-chairs of the initiative since 2006. In 2010, an Implementation and Assessment Group (IAG) was formed to coordinate activities and establish working groups to focus efforts on particular areas of concern to member states. The Netherlands currently serves as the chair of the IAG.

In 2010-2011, GICNT members formed three working groups to focus efforts on a set of priority areas. The decision to move toward a working group model was intended to solidify the GICNT’s status as a durable initiative. The working groups hold meetings, exercises, and workshops that are generally open to all member states (and on occasion non-members). The working groups have also produced documents outlining a range of best practices, guidelines, and suggested exercises for participating states to adopt and use.

The three current working groups are:

  • Nuclear Forensics: Chaired by Australia, this working group is developing best practices in nuclear forensics, assisting states in developing core capabilities, and fostering connections between relevant actors in different governments.
  • Response and Mitigation: Chaired by Morocco, this working group is examining and sharing best practices and techniques for responding to a radiological or nuclear terrorist incident.
  • Nuclear Detection: Chaired by Finland, this working group is building national detection capabilities and providing guidance on detection.

Additional working groups can be created by the GICNT member states.

In total, the GICNT members have held over 80 workshops or exercises in 30 countries. Any participating state can host an activity or workshop by coordinating with the IAG. Since it was created in 2006, there has been a plenary meeting every 1-2 years. The most recent plenary was hosted by the Netherlands in June 2016. The chairman’s summary from the meeting identified radioactive source security as a priority area for future focus and highlighted the importance of regionally-based exercises and workshops.

Since 2006, GICNT membership has grown to 86 states. Any state that endorses the statement of principles can join the initiative. Five international organizations are official observers of the initiative; the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, the UN Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute, INTERPOL, and the European Union.

The GICNT was also designated as one of the five successors to the Nuclear Security Summit agenda. At the final summit in April 2016, participating leaders endorsed action plans for each of the five initiatives to carry on the work of the summit process. The GICNT’s action plan included a range of activities to build capacity, host additional exercises, and promote cooperation with observer organizations.

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  • Create new working groups focused on preventative actions: The existing GICNT working groups are focused on response and detection of a nuclear terrorist or trafficking incident. While these areas certainly are critical in the overarching nuclear security and nonproliferation architecture, the GICNT could put additional focus on creating working groups designed to take preventative action. This could include a focus on radiological source security and disposal, cyber threats, or insider threat mitigation. All of these areas fit within the GICNT’s priorities and additional preventative foci could broaden the appeal of the initiative, given that a dirty bomb attack, for instance, has greater relevance for a wider number of states.
     
  • Target regional and/or bilateral areas of focus through exercises and activities: At the 2016 plenary meeting, GICNT members recognized the need for more regional action. Given that PSI also targets regions to develop specific counter-proliferation strategies, GICNT could consider aligning capacity building and workshops that support or align with priorities identified by PSI activities. Focusing on detection architecture, for instance, could compliment export control trainings or interdiction exercises.
     
  • Utilize the IAEA’s Nuclear Security Training and Support Center (NSSC) database for regional trainings: The IAEA’s NSSC network is working on a database of NSSC specialties and capabilities. The GICNT could utilize the network when planning activities to more efficiently use resources or direct trainings and workshops to fill gaps that might be identified by the NSSC’s network.

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Toward a Balanced Outcome at the Tenth NPT Review Conference

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Remarks by
Daryl G. Kimball
Nuclear Discussion Forum at the Mission of Kazakhstan to the United Nations
October 26, 2021

Executive director Daryl G. Kimball, speaking at the Permanent Mission of Kazakhstan to the United Nations, October 26, 2021 Thank you, Ambassador Ilyassov, for the invitation to speak, and thanks to the Mission of Kazakhstan for bringing us all together to refocus our attention on the pivotal, but delayed, Tenth Nonproliferation Treaty Review Conference January 2-28, 2022.

As we assess what will take to achieve a balanced and successful outcome in 2022, it is important to recollect key experiences, lessons, and commitments from past NPT review cycles.

Twenty-six years ago, as states parties negotiated the terms for the extension of the NPT, the future of the treaty was not assured.

But in 1995, at the treaty’s Review and Extension Conference, world leaders and diplomats managed to come together to craft a balanced plan to advance key goals on disarmament and nonproliferation and extend this bedrock agreement to reduce nuclear dangers.

On May 11, 1995, NPT states parties committed to the “complete elimination of nuclear weapons” and specific disarmament actions as part of a balanced package of decisions. Additional specific commitments were made at the 2000 and 2010 review conferences to advance implementation and compliance with all three pillars of the treaty.

The 1995, 2000, and 2010 commitments with few exceptions remain relevant and important, but the disarmament-related commitments remain largely been unfulfilled.

They should now be reaffirmed, updated, and implemented in good faith. These commitments represent a collective determination of how to comply with Article VI. Abandoning or undercutting them would represent a lack of respect for the NPT process and cast doubt on the value of the NPT Review process itself.

Undoubtedly, NPT states parties will need to come together on many key issues at the NPT Review Conference in January, including action strengthening nuclear safeguards and steps toward addressing regional nonproliferation goals, among others.

But the success of this pivotal review conference will, more than anything, hinge on how and whether they can develop an updated, meaningful action plan on disarmament that helps to address the growing disarmament deficit.

The Disarmament Deficit

Since at least 2010, the nuclear disarmament process has been stalled, and the five NPT nuclear-armed states cannot credibly claim they are meeting their NPT Article VI obligations.

Today, tensions among the world’s nuclear-armed states are rising; the risk of nuclear use is growing; hundreds of billions of dollars are being spent to replace and upgrade the already bloated arsenals of the world’s nine possessors of nuclear weapons; key agreements that have kept nuclear competition in check are in serious jeopardy.

The United States, Russia, China, and the U.K., to varying degrees, are all engaged in a qualitative and quantitative arms race. At the last moment, Presidents Biden and Putin extended the last remaining nuclear arms control treaty, New START, and relaunched a strategic security dialogue that could evolve into nuclear disarmament talks. Progress is possible but is by no means assured.

Meanwhile, China, the United Kingdom, and France remain on the sidelines and are not part of any serious nuclear disarmament discussion or negotiation. The so-called P5 Process, while useful in many ways, is simply not an effective forum to exchange, let alone negotiate, serious disarmament proposals. And there is growing evidence that China is preparing to double or triple the size of its long-range, nuclear-armed ballistic missile force.

Consequently, as we approach the delayed 10th NPT Review Conference, we are once again are at a crossroads in the long-running journey to reduce the threat of nuclear war and eliminate nuclear weapons.

All states must approach the upcoming NPT Review Conference with a sense of urgency, a spirit of cooperation, a willingness to be flexible, and a determination to produce meaningful results that transcend old fault lines, particularly regarding the disarmament “pillar” of the NPT.

To achieve a successful outcome at this NPT Review Conference, states parties must not only reaffirm their past commitments and objectively review recent progress—or lack thereof—on meeting treaty goals and commitments—they must focus on developing an updated, focused action plan on disarmament.

No Excuses

U.S. and Russian leadership on nuclear risk reduction and disarmament has been a key to the success of pivotal NPT Review Conferences in the past. Unfortunately, neither can provide any evidence of progress on disarmament in recent years.

We can expect U.S. and Russian officials to remind us that since the end of the Cold War 40 years ago, their arsenals have declined significantly. While true, nearly all those reductions occurred before 2010.

We can expect the nuclear-armed states will continue to claim that many past NPT commitments on disarmament have been overtaken by events. Some will bemoan the fact that the “environment” for progress on disarmament is challenging and they will each claim they are open to talks on disarmament under the right diplomatic terms.

History shows that progress on disarmament can be achieved during times of tension, and that tensions can be eased, trust can be rebuilt through effective negotiations on nuclear arms control.

In 1979, for instance, during the height of the Cold War, then-Sen. Biden spoke at the Arms Control Association Annual Dinner about “The Necessity of Nuclear Arms Control,” noting that “pursuing arms control is not a luxury or a sign of weakness, but an international responsibility and a national necessity.”

Some of the nuclear-armed states may continue to oppose any recognition of the fact that since the 2015 NPT Review Conference many of the NPT’s non-nuclear member states successfully concluded the 2017 Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons as a contribution to meeting their NPT Article VI obligations.

Some may even resist recognizing the grave health and environmental consequences of nuclear weapons production, testing, and use—otherwise known as catastrophic humanitarian impacts.

Such deflection of responsibility for inaction is unconstructive and irresponsible.

Next Steps on Disarmament

Instead, the five nuclear-armed NPT states should acknowledge the continued validity of their past disarmament commitments and work with other NPT states to develop an updated action plan that sets benchmarks for progress over the next several years.

Notwithstanding tensions between the nuclear-armed states, the conference can and should develop a forward-looking action plan that:

  • commits NPT states parties to take near-term steps that meaningfully reduce the role and number of nuclear weapons,
  • seeks to bring all nuclear-armed states into the nuclear disarmament process, and
  • creates new momentum to put us back on the path toward the common goal of a world without nuclear weapons.

Key elements should be rooted in the 2010 NPT action plan and can be derived from statements and proposals from the NAM, the NAC, the Stockholm Initiative, and the NPDI, as well as the commitments and policies of nuclear-weapon states themselves.

It might include the following measures which might be codified in a joint statement designed to become an element of the final conference document:

  • a call for the United States and Russia to conclude talks on a New START follow-on agreement or agreements that achieve further, lower limits on strategic and nonstrategic nuclear warheads and delivery systems no later than 2025
  • a pledge by all the NPT nuclear-armed states to freeze the size of their nuclear arsenals and reduce their fissile stockpiles, as the United States and Russia seek to achieve new agreements to reduce their offensive nuclear arsenals and limit their strategic missile interceptor systems
  • a call for all five nuclear-armed states to agree to begin to engage in disarmament talks, either bilaterally and/or through a new multilateral format, no later than 2025
  • reaffirmation by all nuclear-armed states of their de facto nuclear testing moratoria, the negotiation of voluntary nuclear test confidence-building measures to address concerns about compliance pending CTBT entry into force, and action by the eight remaining CTBT holdout states to ratify the treaty before 2025
  • a call for a halt to the introduction of new types of nuclear weapons and nuclear-armed cruise and hypersonic missiles
  • a commitment by the nuclear-weapon states to adopt and report on specific policies that reduce the role and salience and risk of use of nuclear weapons, including a phaseout to Cold War-era “launch under attack” postures, which increase the risk of accidental nuclear war
  • a recognition of the fact that any use of nuclear weapons would produce catastrophic humanitarian consequences and that “a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.”

In the absence of coherent and constructive leadership from the nuclear-weapon states, other responsible and concerned NPT states parties need to fill the void and work together for a good outcome.

Sweden, Germany, Kazakhstan, and other states have made some strides toward a common framework on the next steps on nuclear disarmament. Leaders of the humanitarian initiative on nuclear weapons and key members of the Non-Aligned Movement also have a role to play.

We all need to act with the urgency that the threats posed by nuclear weapons demand.

If we are to reduce the nuclear threat and prevent the possible third use of nuclear weapons, we cannot afford to squander the opportunity to act while we still can.

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Remarks by Executive Director Daryl G. Kimball for the Nuclear Discussion Forum at the Mission of Kazakhstan to the United Nations

Addressing the Disarmament Deficit

Inside the Arms Control Association October 2021 This week (Oct. 24-29) marks United Nations Disarmament Week, which seeks to promote awareness and a better understanding of disarmament issues. The annual observance was first called for at the UN’s 1978 special session on disarmament. Since we were founded 50 years ago, the Arms Control Association has been a leading force pushing, prodding, and promoting effective action on arms control, nonproliferation, and disarmament—every day of every week, every year. We’ve made a difference—but nuclear competition and global tensions are growing once...

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