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– Hans Blix,
former IAEA Director-General

Kelsey Davenport

Paths Forward on Action-for-Action Process for Denuclearization and A Peace Regime for the Korean Peninsula

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The second summit between President Donald Trump and Chairman Kim Jong Un—tentatively planned for late February—must emphasize substance over pageantry.

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Volume 11, Issue 3, January 29, 2019

Months after the historic June 2018 Singapore Summit, the United States and North Korea are still at the starting point of the lengthy and arduous process of negotiating the details of denuclearization and a peace regime on the Korean peninsula.

Because the window for diplomatic progress with North Korea will not remain open indefinitely, the second summit between President Donald Trump and Chairman Kim Jong Un—tentatively planned for late February—must emphasize substance over pageantry. Absent progress, North Korea’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs—and the security risks they pose—will continue to grow.

Stagnation Since Singapore

In the Singapore Summit joint statement, Trump and Kim made an “unwavering commitment to complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula,” and recognized that progress on denuclearization depends on joint “efforts to build a lasting and stable peace regime” on the peninsula. But these vague goals were not accompanied by obligations for each side to take specific actions or by any structure for the process of diplomacy going forward.

Clear differences over the scope and sequence emerged in the first follow-up meeting between U.S. and North Korean officials in Pyongyang in July, disparities that have prevented the initiation of direct, expert-level negotiations on the actions necessary to reach the summit’s agreed goals.

At the July meeting, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reportedly insisted that North Korea provide a full declaration of its nuclear weapons program as a first step. The Trump administration also emphasized that North Korea must fully denuclearize before the United States would grant concessions such as sanctions relief.

Select North Korean Nuclear-Capable* Missiles
NameEstimated RangeStatus
Hwasong-5300 kmOperational
Hwasong-6500 kmOperational
Hwasong-7700-1,000 kmOperational
Pukkuksong-11,200 kmTested/Development
No-Dong-11,200-1,500 kmOperational
Pukkuksong-21,200-2,000 kmTested/Development
Hwasong-102,500-4,000 kmTested/Development
Hwasong-124,500 kmTested/Development
Hwasong-135,500-11,500 kmDevelopment
Hwasong-13 Mod 28,000-10,000 kmDevelopment
Hwasong-1410,000+ kmTested/Development
Hwasong-1513,000 kmTested/Development
*Nuclear capable as defined by the Missile Technology Control Regime Guidelines

North Korea, on the other hand, has clearly stated it prefers an action-for-action approach to advance the goals of the Singapore declaration and looked for the Trump administration to take the first step. Pyongyang views its April 2018 commitments to halt nuclear and long-range ballistic missile testing, and actions the following month to destroy tunnels at its nuclear test site, as steps toward denuclearization that the United States should reward.

While the North Korean leadership subsequently offered to take further denuclearization steps, including verifiable decommissioning of its Yongbyon nuclear complex, those measures would be contingent upon “corresponding steps” by the United States. The Pyongyang regime did not demand specific actions from the Trump Administration but has periodically called for limited sanctions relief and U.S. support for a joint political declaration ending the Korean War.

Despite the lack of follow-through, the historic 2018 Trump-Kim summit certainly eased tensions. Intense diplomatic work between North and South Korea has also led to agreement on concrete measures to ease tensions along the Demilitarized Zone.

But contrary to Trump’s self-aggrandizing claim that there is “no longer a nuclear threat from North Korea,” Pyongyang continues to improve its ballistic missile capabilities and produce bomb-grade nuclear material.

Defining Denuclearization and Peace

Denuclearization is a complex, technical task. North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs involve dozens of sites, hundreds of buildings, and thousands of people. Additionally, the United States and North Korea do not yet agree on the scope of the denuclearization process. Rapid progress toward denuclearization should be the goal, but comprehensive, verifiable denuclearization will take years.

A stepwise process that emphasizes threat-reduction in the shorter term does not mean “accepting” North Korea’s status as a nuclear-weapon state. Rather, it underscores the urgency of halting these programs and negotiating an effective deal that reduces the threat posed by these capabilities and leads to their verifiable elimination.

In the long term, any such deal must account for North Korea’s violation of its existing obligations under the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). The North’s verifiable denuclearization and its return to NPT compliance are necessary steps to preserve and strengthen the nonproliferation regime.

Complicating matters is the fact that the U.S. and North Korean sides still do not have a common understanding, in writing, about what denuclearization entails. For more than a decade, the United States has insisted on the “complete, irreversible and verifiable dismantlement” of North Korea’s nuclear programs. UN Security Council resolutions on North Korea use similar terminology.

North Korea’s concept of denuclearization is broader and applies beyond the country’s borders. Initially, North and South Korea agreed in the 1992 Joint Declaration of the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula not to “test, manufacture, produce, receive, possess, store, deploy or use nuclear weapons” or to “possess nuclear reprocessing and uranium enrichment facilities.” They also agreed to mutual inspections for verification. However, in 2003, North Korea declared the 1992 agreement to be “dead.” So it is unclear if North Korea will seek to maintain uranium enrichment or reprocessing for a peaceful nuclear program in an agreement.

Furthermore, North Korea’s concept of “denuclearization” encompasses the entire Korean peninsula, (as opposed to unilateral nuclear disarmament by North Korea). It includes prohibitions on the deployment of U.S. strategic assets in the region and the basing of U.S. troops trained to use nuclear weapons in South Korea, as well as threats to use nuclear weapons.

Getting Diplomacy Back on Track

If the two sides approach the second summit with realistic expectations and a readiness to take reciprocal measures that build confidence in the process, it is possible to move closer to the joint goals of denuclearization and peacebuilding on the Korean peninsula and further from the risk of a catastrophic war.

Freezing, Reversing, and Eliminating Nuclear and Missile Capabilities

North Korea’s voluntary commitment to halt nuclear and long-range ballistic missile testing has eased tensions, but the moratorium is not yet permanent and it was a relatively low-cost commitment for Kim. In his 2018 New Year’s Address, Kim declared North Korea’s nuclear arsenal complete and announced that the country would focus on mass production of nuclear warheads. Kim’s statement implies that North Korea had already decided to halt certain testing activities before announcing the moratorium and focus on expansion of the nuclear weapons stockpile.

North Korean Nuclear Weapons and Testing
Nuclear Weapons StockpileNorth Korea is estimated to have assembled 10-20 nuclear warheads and produced enough fissile material for an estimated 30-60 nuclear weapons.
Nuclear TestingNorth Korea has conducted six nuclear tests explosions, beginning in 2006. Its most recent test in Sept. 2017 had an estimated yield of over 200 kilotons (TNT equivalent).

The testing freeze does prevent North Korea from making certain qualitative advances in its nuclear weapons program. An important next step will be to solidify the testing halt and pursue a partial freeze on fissile material production. Given North Korea’s goal of expanding its arsenal, Pyongyang’s willingness to halt fissile material production would be a critical indication of its commitment to denuclearize. Specific, verifiable arrangements to accomplish these goals could begin with:

  • solidifying North Korea’s voluntary nuclear test moratorium by allowing inspectors to confirm the closure of the existing test site at Punggye-ri and securing North Korean signature of the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty;
  • expanding on its missile testing halt to include short- and medium-range ballistic missiles;
  • halting fissile material production at Yongbyon and beginning to verifiably decommission all facilities at the site. This would necessitate a partial declaration of the facilities to be decommissioned; and
  • halting fissile material production at undisclosed sites. Initially, this could be verified using remote monitoring technologies if North Korea were unwilling to let inspectors verify a fissile material production freeze.

These initial steps would build confidence in the diplomatic process and would help ensure that North Korea could not expand its arsenal while the longer-term negotiations and denuclearization steps continue.

There are several additional major steps in the denuclearization process, each of which will be challenging. These include:

  • securing a full declaration of North Korea’s nuclear infrastructure, materials, and weapons to be verified later by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The guidelines and techniques established by the IAEA Model Additional Protocol for nuclear safeguards provide a good foundation for verifying and monitoring the fuel-cycle portions of the declaration;
  • agreeing to a process and a timeline for dismantling North Korea’s nuclear weapons stockpile. It is estimated that North Korea has assembled 10-20 warheads and produced enough fissile material for an estimated 30-60 nuclear weapons.
  • achieving a verifiable halt to the production of ballistic missiles that can deliver nuclear weapons and to the dismantlement of deployed medium- and longer-range ballistic missiles and launchers;
  • accounting for and securing all separated fissile material. This work would likely have to be supervised by specialists from nuclear-weapon states in cooperation with North Korean technical experts; and
  • beginning to dismantle other nuclear facilities (beyond Yongbyon) under international supervision, including IAEA inspectors. A major negotiating issue at this stage would be which facilities are for civilian purposes and whether North Korea, given its history, should be allowed to retain such capabilities even under tighter international safeguards against misuse. This would be a major undertaking that could build on experience from U.S. and Russian Cooperative Threat Reduction programs, which helped eliminate excess Cold War-era stockpiles, employed former weapons scientists, and repurposed military sites.

“Corresponding Steps”

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will not give up North Korea’s nuclear weapons if he believes doing so will compromise North Korea’s security. North Korea has clearly stated that steps on denuclearization must go hand in hand with steps toward reducing tensions and building a peace-regime on the Korean peninsula.

Trump’s post-summit decision to suspend and modify certain joint military exercises with South Korea that Pyongyang views as provocative was an important confidence-building measure. But more will be necessary.

The next steps designed to reduce tensions and build a “peace regime” in return for initial North Korean actions to verifiably freeze and roll back certain parts of its nuclear weapons program might include:

  • reaching a three-party declaration on the end of the Korean War;
  • permanently pledging to remove U.S. strategic bombers and offensive-strike assets from future joint military exercises.
  • easing sanctions blocking humanitarian aid and certain projects designed to build closer economic and cultural ties between North and South;
  • lifting some of the most recent UN Security Council sanctions imposed on North Korea, perhaps including those involving oil and coal;
  • establishing a hotline agreement to help avoid miscommunication in a crisis; and
  • taking steps toward the normalization of relations, beginning with the opening of diplomatic interest sections in Pyongyang and Washington.

Later steps, as the denuclearization milestones are completed could include:

  • initiation of negotiations on a formal peace treaty. The conclusion of such a treaty could coincide with verified and complete denuclearization and it would trigger a removal of nuclear-related sanctions; a significant reduction of military forces on both sides of the demilitarized zone, and formal security assurances against the initiation of hostilities by either side; and
  • further corresponding sanctions relief, including through the revision of existing UN Security Council resolutions with sanctions targeting North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

If the Trump administration could move the Korean peninsula demonstrably closer to these ambitious, long-term outcomes, it would be a major breakthrough. But one meeting will not be enough to get the process on track.

To achieve even just some of the additional steps toward the long-term goal of denuclearization of the peninsula and a durable peace regime, the Trump-Kim summit will need to produce agreement on a balanced framework for sustained, direct, high-level negotiations on denuclearization and peace.

The overall goal should be to continue to move as quickly as possible toward halting, reversing, and eliminating the threat posed by North Korea’s nuclear weapons and away from a renewed crisis that risks bringing the region back to the brink of war. – DARYL G. KIMBALL, Executive Director, and KELSEY DAVENPORT, Director for Nonproliferation Policy

Country Resources:

Posted: January 29, 2019

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Trump to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in late February, White House says

News Source: 
The Washington Post
News Date: 
January 18, 2019 -05:00

Posted: January 18, 2019

Trump administration finds its Iran policy not working

News Source: 
Al-Monitor
News Date: 
January 17, 2019 -05:00

Posted: January 17, 2019

North Korea Denuclearization Digest, January 11, 2019

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Stakes Grow for Possible Trump-Kim Summit

Diplomacy stalls over meaning of denuclearization as the United States and North Korea seek next steps.


January/February 2019
By Kelsey Davenport

North Korea reiterated that denuclearization of the Korean peninsula must include removal of U.S. nuclear weapons in the region, a statement that underscores that diplomatic advances in 2019 will require addressing simultaneously North Korea’s nuclear weapons program and its security concerns.

In an image provided by South Korean Defense Ministry, North Korean soldiers (left) talk with a South Korean soldier during mutual on-site verification of the withdrawal of guard posts along the Demilitarized Zone on December 12, 2018. The two Koreas have begun to destroy 20 guard posts along their heavily-fortified border under an agreement reached during the September 2018 Pyongyang summit between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.  (Photo: South Korean Defense Ministry via Getty Images)The state-run Korean Central News Agency said on Dec. 20 that denuclearization means “removing all elements of nuclear threats from the areas of both the north and the south of Korea and also from surrounding areas from where the Korean peninsula is targeted.” The United States has focused on a deal in which North Korea gives up its nuclear weapons and related facilities in return for a lifting of U.S. and UN sanctions and possibly ending the Korean War.

The United States removed its tactical nuclear weapons from South Korea in 1991, but the country remains under the U.S. nuclear umbrella, and U.S. troops are stationed in South Korea and Japan. U.S. President Donald Trump announced in June that certain joint military exercises between the United States and South Korea would be suspended, and subsequent exercises were modified, but North Korea is still looking for the United States to take additional steps to address its security concerns.

With little negotiating progress evident in late 2018, Trump said he is in no rush for an agreement with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, even though he had sharply criticized President Barack Obama’s policy of “strategic patience” as Pyongyang increased its nuclear and missile capabilities.

The apparent impasse increases the stakes heading to a second Trump-Kim summit, which U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said during a Dec. 20 radio interview is expected “not too long after the first of the year.”

Kim, in his annual New Year’s address Jan. 1, said that he is “ready to meet the U.S. president again anytime” but that it is up to the United States to take the next steps. If the United States “responds to our proactive, prior efforts with trustworthy measures and corresponding practical actions, bilateral relations will develop wonderfully at a fast pace through the taking of more definite and epochal measures,” he said.

Kim warned, however, that if the United States fails to follow through, persists in imposing sanctions, and attempts to “unilaterally enforce something,” North Korea “may be compelled to find a new way for defending the sovereignty of the country and supreme interests of the state and for achieving peace and stability on the Korean peninsula.”

Kim referenced North Korea’s decision to suspend its nuclear warhead and missile tests in 2018, which Trump frequently cites, as evidence of its commitment to denuclearization, but North Korea is thought to be increasing its stockpile of nuclear materials for warheads. As a result, time works in Pyongyang’s favor and may make a diplomatic solution more difficult.

Further, the protest resignation of U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, a strong advocate of the U.S.-South Korean military alliance, may raise anxieties in Seoul even as President Moon Jae-in has worked to ease tensions with Pyongyang.

That is because the Trump administration is pressing Seoul to bear more of the burden for keeping 28,500 U.S. troops in South Korea, leading to speculation that Trump might be willing to pull out some U.S. forces in a concession to Kim. The U.S. troops help with South Korea’s defense preparations and act as a trip wire to reassure South Koreans that the United States would engage if the North attacks.

North Korea’s Institute for American Studies at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs reiterated in a Dec. 17 commentary that North Korea is waiting for the United States to take action to move the process forward, arguing that Pyongyang has taken “proactive denuclearization steps” and Washington must respond in a corresponding manner.

North Korea’s expansive definition of denuclearization is not new. Pyongyang made a similar statement in July 2016 emphasizing that U.S. nuclear weapons in the region must be part of the diplomatic process.

The July 2016 statement said that “the denuclearization being called for by [North Korea] is the denuclearization of the whole Korean peninsula and this includes the dismantlement of nukes in South Korea and its vicinity.”

North Korea cited five specific demands in July 2016 to remove the U.S. nuclear threat: public disclosure of U.S. nuclear weapons in South Korea, removal and verification that such weapons are not present on U.S. bases in South Korea, U.S. guarantees that it will not redeploy nuclear weapons in South Korea, U.S. assurances that it will not threaten or conduct a nuclear strike on North Korea, and withdrawal from South Korea of U.S. troops authorized to use nuclear weapons.

This list might provide insight as to what Pyongyang will be wanting from Washington if talks progress.

It was also clear after Trump and Kim met in Singapore in June that Washington and Pyongyang do not share the same definition of denuclearization, which many experts predicted could complicate negotiations.

At a July hearing held by the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Pompeo was pressed on whether the two countries agree on what constitutes the Singapore summit’s commitment to pursue denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.

Pompeo said that the United States shared its definition with Pyongyang and that North Korea “understands” U.S. expectations for what that process will accomplish, but he would not confirm that North Korea agreed with the U.S. terms.

North Korea may be emphasizing its definition of denuclearization to influence the diplomatic process going forward.

Since the June summit in Singapore, negotiations between the United States and North Korea have failed to gain traction. Initially, the U.S. insistence that Pyongyang complete denuclearization before any U.S. concessions on sanctions or an end of the Korean War appeared to stymie progress, as North Korea insisted on a step-by-step approach with each side taking reciprocal actions.

North Korea’s Dec. 20 commentary may be intended as a reminder that Pyongyang expects the United States to take steps that address Pyongyang’s security concerns as the country rolls back its nuclear weapons program.

The Dec. 17 commentary made a similar point, stating that the United States must realize “before it is too late” that maximum pressure will not work and Washington should take a “sincere approach to implementing” the Singapore statement.

Pompeo’s visit to Pyongyang in November initially appeared to reinvigorate the process when the two sides agreed to more regular contacts and the establishment of working groups, but there has been little evidence that these developments are being realized. Still, Pompeo described the negotiations thus far as a “great process” in a Dec. 21 interview with NPR.

Although the announcement of working groups meeting regularly would be a step forward in establishing a process for negotiations to proceed, commentary from North Korea suggests that Pyongyang may prefer to deal directly with Trump.

The Dec. 17 statement said that Trump “avails himself of every possible occasion to state his willingness to improve [North Korean-U.S.] relations” and targeted the U.S. State Department as “bent on bringing” the relationship between the United States and North Korea “back to the status of last year which was marked by exchanges of fire.”

 

Posted: January 8, 2019

U.S., Iran Spar Over Ballistic Missiles

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo accuses Tehran of being in “open defiance” of Security Council resolution.


January/February 2019
By Kelsey Davenport

The United States and Iran sparred at the UN Security Council last month over Tehran’s ballistic missile program and allegations that Iran is violating UN restrictions on missile activities.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo chats with Karen Pierce, UK permanent representative of to the UN, during the Security Council meeting on Iran held December 12, 2018. (Photo: Kevin Hagen/Getty Images)The dispute at the Dec. 12 council meeting came as the United States is ratcheting up its rhetoric on the threat posed by Iran’s ballistic missile program and seeking support for more stringent restrictions. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said at the council session that the United States will “continue to be relentless in building a coalition of responsible nations who are serious in confronting the Iranian regime’s reckless ballistic missile activity.”

The meeting focused on a biannual report from UN Secretary-General António Guterres on implementation of Security Council Resolution 2231, which endorsed the multilateral nuclear deal with Iran and put in place restrictions on the country’s ballistic missile and conventional arms activities. Ballistic missiles and conventional arms are not covered by the Iran nuclear deal.

“No nation can dispute that Iran is in open defiance” of Resolution 2231, Pompeo said.

The report, released Dec. 8, did not definitively conclude that Tehran violated UN provisions prohibiting the transfer of ballistic missiles, but it included evidence that missiles used by Houthi fighters in Yemen originated in Iran.

Debris from missiles that landed in Saudi Arabia bore features similar to Iranian ballistic missiles, the report said, and noted that the UN Secretariat would continue to try and determine if the systems were transferred before or after the council resolution entered into force in January 2016.

Pompeo said the United States has “hard evidence that Iran is providing missiles, training, and support” for the Houthis and transferring ballistic missiles to Shia militias in Iraq. He called on the Security Council to “establish inspection and interdiction measures” to “thwart Iran’s continuing efforts to circumvent” UN restrictions.

Iran, although not a member of the Security Council, was permitted to speak at the meeting. Eshagh Al Habib, Iran’s deputy ambassador to the UN, said Iran faces real threats and “will not and cannot compromise on its security and its conventional defensive capability.”

He also said the United States is in violation of Resolution 2231 by withdrawing from the nuclear deal and “punishing” states for supporting the resolution.

Resolution 2231 calls on all UN member states to support implementation of the nuclear deal and refrain from actions that undermine it. As a result of U.S. sanctions, foreign entities have pulled out of the Iranian market.

The report did not describe the U.S. reimposition of sanctions as a violation of Resolution 2231, but Guterres said that U.S. actions “do not advance the goals set out” in the resolution and expressed regret over the Trump administration’s actions.

The report detailed the dispute over whether Iran’s ballistic missile testing and use of ballistic missiles violated Resolution 2231, which also calls on Iran to refrain from developing ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons.

The resolution language on missile development is nonbinding, and there are different interpretations of what “designed to be nuclear capable” means. The Dec. 8 report quoted a letter from Iran arguing that there is no evidence that Iran’s ballistic missiles possess the necessary features for delivering nuclear weapons and the resolution does not prohibit Iran from pursing its ballistic missile program.

In a Nov. 20 letter to Guterres, the United Kingdom, France, and Germany described ballistic missiles fired by Iran into Syria in October as “inherently capable of [the] delivery [of] nuclear weapons.” The three countries did not describe the action as a violation of Resolution 2231, but said it constituted “an activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons,” saying it was “destabilizing and increased regional tensions.”

Iran acknowledged targeting terrorists in Syria that Tehran says were linked to an attack in Iran and argued that it was acting in “legitimate self-defense” recognized by the UN Charter.

Pompeo said the United States would work with other states to bring back more stringent restrictions on Iranian ballistic missiles, similar to those adopted by the Security Council in Resolution 1929 in 2010. That required Iran to halt development of nuclear-capable ballistic missiles, which is commonly understood to include systems capable of delivering a 500 kilogram nuclear warhead a distance greater than 300 kilometers.

The restrictions in Resolution 1929 were superseded by Resolution 2231, but could be snapped back into place if one of the five permanent members of the Security Council (China, France, Russia, the UK, and the United States) overturns Resolution 2231. Pompeo did not indicate that the United States is planning to take that step at this time.

 

EU Advances Payment Channel for Iran

The European Union is making progress on an alternative payment channel for doing business with Iran, but the so-called special purpose vehicle will likely be limited to humanitarian transactions exempt from U.S. sanctions.

France and Germany reportedly have agreed to host the special purpose vehicle and are aiming to have it set up by early this year.

An alternative payment mechanism is necessary because U.S. sanctions, reimposed after President Donald Trump withdrew from the nuclear deal in May, target Iranian banks and foreign financial institutions that facilitate financial transactions with Iran.

In September, the EU and Iran announced that they would set up the alternative payment mechanism, which is designed to preserve legitimate trade by setting up a barter-like system for entitles importing and exporting goods to Iran. EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini initially said the special purpose vehicle would be designed to facilitate legitimate trade with Iran permitted by the 2015 nuclear deal, including payments for oil.

European officials have since indicated that the scope of the mechanism will be reduced to cover humanitarian trade exempt from U.S. sanctions, such as food and medicine. Despite the U.S. sanctions exemptions for humanitarian goods, it is difficult to find financial entities willing to process the transactions.

Bahram Ghasemi, spokesman for the Iranian Foreign Ministry, rejected the idea that the special purpose vehicle will be limited to medicine and food. The mechanism “must cover a range of transactions and economic and industrial cooperation,” he said Dec. 17.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told reporters on Dec. 12 that the United States will examine the payment mechanism when it is set up. The United States will not pursue sanctions penalties for activities consistent with humanitarian exemptions, but “to the extent that there are violations of our sanctions, we intend to enforce them with great rigor against any party who is a participant in those violations,” he said.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres said in a Dec. 8 report on implementation of Security Council Resolution 2231, which endorsed the nuclear deal and called on all states to support it, that he welcomes “initiatives to protect the freedom” of entities pursing “legitimate business” with Iran.—KELSEY DAVENPORT

Posted: January 8, 2019

U.S. Sets Strategy Against WMD Terrorism

New report shows continuity with past administrations.


January/February 2019
By Kelsey Davenport

The Trump administration released a national strategy for countering terrorists’ efforts to use weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in an attack against the United States.

Members of a U.S. Army and New Jersey National Guard Joint Hazard Assessment Team (JHAT) perform a protective WMD sweep of MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., May 4, 2018. (Photo: New Jersey National Guard)The U.S. strategy document, released in December, addresses three main elements to prevent terrorists from using chemical, biological, nuclear, and radiological devices: efforts to reduce terrorists’ access to WMD materials globally, pressure on terrorist groups that seek to obtain these weapons, and plans for strengthening U.S. defenses against WMD threats.

But the report says that there are no surefire defenses, and it provides what could be pre-emptive political cover in the event there is a WMD-terrorism attack.

“Despite our technological and military advantages, we cannot eliminate all pathways for terrorists to conduct a WMD attack against the United States and its interests,” the report concludes. “Nonetheless, we can significantly reduce the probability and consequences of such attacks.”

The strategy builds on a number of existing efforts started under the Bush and Obama administrations to prevent WMD terrorism, particularly in efforts to minimize access to necessary materials and technologies. Although President Donald Trump frequently has belittled U.S. alliances, his introduction to the report stresses the need to advance “enhanced partnerships with our allies and partners worldwide” to prevent WMD terrorism.

The strategy calls for prioritizing disposition of nuclear and radiological materials worldwide that “pose the highest risk for terrorist acquisition” and minimizing the use of “highly-attractive” materials in civil programs. This objective continues priorities from the nuclear security summits held biannually from 2010 to 2016, which sought agreement on actions to minimize and eliminate weapons-usable nuclear materials in civilian programs.

On chemical weapons, the United States states its commitment to strengthening chemical security practices in academic and industrial institutions and says it will consider revising policies and best practices for “responsible conduct” in sciences that use materials applicable to chemical weapons development.

The strategy document also recognizes that terrorists have used chemical weapons and says the United States is exploring ways to work with the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons to prevent nonstate actors from pursuing chemical weapons.

To prevent diversion of biological materials for weapons, the United States says it will promote policies that reduce the risk of misuse and provide more effective oversight for dual-use research.

The strategy also includes objectives to strengthen U.S. defenses against WMD terrorism. The document notes deployed U.S. capabilities, such as technical means to detect certain weapons of mass destruction, rapid counterresponse teams, and intelligence capabilities to prevent WMD attacks, and commits the United States to strengthening its response capacity with an emphasis on minimizing casualties and helping communities recover in the event of an attack.

Better coordination of state, local, and federal efforts and empowerment of state governments also features in the strategy. The Trump administration will continue providing equipment and training to states, with the goal of creating self-sustaining capabilities, the report says.

The strategy recognizes that the threat posed by WMD terrorism will continue to evolve and be affected by technological advances. The report says that the United States will strengthen collaboration with public and private sector entities analyzing the applications of technological advancements. In particular, the report identifies artificial intelligence as “certain to produce security implications beyond our current understanding.”

The United States will also look for opportunities to leverage new technologies to counter WMD terrorism, and the strategy notes how machine learning is already being used to assist in identifying trends and providing insights.

 

Posted: January 8, 2019

Nigeria Ships HEU to China

Nigeria Ships HEU to China

 

Nigeria shipped its highly enriched uranium (HEU) back to China, making it the 33rd country, plus Taiwan, to become HEU free. Nigeria’s one kilogram of HEU was used to fuel a Chinese-supplied miniature neutron source reactor used for a range of research activities. Although one kilogram of HEU is far less than what is necessary for a nuclear warhead, the fuel was enriched to more than 90 percent uranium-235, which is considered weapons grade.

The HEU was flown to China under monitoring by the International Atomic Energy Agency. Experts from China, the Czech Republic, Russia, and the United States assisted in the process. Yusuf Aminu Ahmed, director of the Center for Energy Research and Training in Nigeria, said the country does not want “any material that is attractive to terrorists” and that removal of the material fulfills Nigeria’s commitment to reduce the use of HEU in civilian applications. As part of the project, China converted the reactor to run on low-enriched uranium fuel. The conversion was completed in October 2018 under a commitment that was part of the nuclear security summit process, which took place from 2010 to 2016.—KELSEY DAVENPORT

Posted: January 8, 2019

Iranian scientists persevere under renewed sanctions

News Source: 
Physics Today
News Date: 
January 1, 2019 -05:00

Posted: January 1, 2019

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