The Arms Control Association is an "exceptional organization that effectively addresses pressing national and international challenges with an impact that is disproportionate to its small size." 

– John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
January 19, 2011
Press Releases

Orbital Wins Competition for Initial Missile Defense Deployment Booster by Default

Wade Boese

Two recent accidents at a California missile propellant facility have delayed production and testing of a Lockheed Martin Corporation booster being considered for inclusion in the Bush administration’s proposed defense system against long-range ballistic missiles. As a result, the Pentagon announced Nov. 7 that it would rely on a second model, developed by Orbital Sciences Corporation, to power the system’s first 10 missile interceptors.

The booster is one of two key components for the ground-based interceptors in the missile defense system, slated for deployment next fall. The other is the exoatmospheric kill vehicle (EKV). The booster lifts the EKV into space, where it is supposed to home in on and collide with an enemy warhead.

Six of the Orbital Sciences boosters are now set for deployment in Alaska, and four will be based in California. The Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency (MDA) conducted its first successful flight test of the Orbital Sciences booster Aug. 16. Orbital Sciences conducted a test of a pared-down version last February. Neither test involved an EKV or a target warhead.

Lockheed’s effort was put on hold by two explosions at a Pratt & Whitney plant preparing the solid fuel for its boosters. The accidents, which occurred Aug. 7 and Sept. 12, killed one employee, destroyed one of the containers in which the propellant is mixed, and resulted in the mixing operation being suspended for a major safety evaluation.

Without its specific propellant, the Lockheed booster cannot fly. Although Pratt & Whitney is set to resume production of the propellant in April 2004, this will not occur in time for Lockheed to meet the Pentagon’s current initial deployment schedule.

However, Lockheed does possess a couple of completed booster motors, and MDA has scheduled a flight test of the Lockheed booster for the first half of December. The test, which will not involve an EKV or a target, has been postponed several times.

Lockheed’s booster could be the primary model for a second round of 10 interceptors planned for deployment during 2005. MDA spokesman Rick Lehner said Nov. 17 that MDA will look to “stay with two boosters for a long time.”

The Pentagon’s effort to develop a booster for its ground-based interceptor has been significantly troubled. Early plans called for a prototype booster first to be involved in an intercept test in early 2001. That has yet to happen.

In lieu of a prototype booster, the Pentagon has used a slower, surrogate booster in all eight of its strategic missile defense intercept tests. Two of the system’s three test failures could be traced to the surrogate booster, prompting MDA to suspend intercept testing after a December 2002 failure until at least one of the two prototypes was available. Two intercept tests, using the Orbital Sciences booster, are tentatively scheduled for next year.






Two recent accidents at a California missile propellant facility have delayed production and testing of a Lockheed Martin Corporation booster being considered...

GAO Calls for Review of Missile Defense Satellite Program

Wade Boese

The General Accounting Office (GAO) recently recommended that the Pentagon review a missile defense satellite system because of lingering problems that could result in major program cost and schedule overruns. The Air Force just restructured the program last year following a critical review of the system.

Initiated in 1996, the Space-Based Infrared System (SBIRS)-high program has been “burdened by immature technologies, unclear requirements, unstable funding, underestimated software complexity, and other problems,” GAO stated in an Oct. 31 report on the program.

SBIRS-high is intended to replace the Pentagon’s current constellation of Defense Support Program (DSP) satellites. The DSP satellites have been operating for more than 30 years and provide information on worldwide missile launches, among other tasks. The new system is also intended to gather intelligence and provide timely battlefield information to U.S. troops.

Yet, SBIRS-high is far from proving it can handle these missions. GAO noted that testing earlier this year revealed that the first infrared sensor to be deployed as part of the system demonstrated “several deficiencies” in the sensor’s ability to “maintain earth coverage” and to track missiles.

As such problems have emerged, the SBIRS-high price tag has more than doubled. Originally projected to cost $1.8 billion to research and develop, the system is currently budgeted at $4.4 billion.

The system’s development troubles have led to significant delays. The Pentagon initially planned to begin fielding SBIRS-high components between 1999 and 2004, but the first delivery of sensors for two of the system’s satellites has slipped from February 2002 to at least December 2003, while the launch of the first of four other satellites making up the system has been pushed back from 2004 to 2006.

Frustrated by the system’s lack of progress, the Pentagon ordered a review that led to the Air Force restructuring the program in August 2002. Although there have been improvements in oversight of the program, GAO concluded that there are continuing schedule and cost risks that merit the program being reviewed again—an assessment the Pentagon shares.

In May, GAO reported that a complementary satellite system to SBIRS-high, the Space Tracking and Surveillance System (formerly SBIRS-low), was also beset with problems. (See ACT, June 2003.) As originally conceived, SBIRS-high was to provide the early warning of a hostile missile launch, while SBIRS-low was to provide more detailed tracking information on the target cluster to help a missile interceptor distinguish between an enemy warhead and any potential decoys that might be accompanying it. The overhauled and renamed SBIRS-low program is still supposed to help track a missile during its entire flight, but the requirement that it must discriminate between warheads and decoys has been postponed for now, according to the May GAO report.






The General Accounting Office (GAO) recently recommended that the Pentagon review a missile defense satellite system because of lingering problems that could result in major program cost and schedule overruns.

Congress Authorizes New Weapons Research

Christine Kucia

Congress has given its stamp of approval to Bush administration proposals calling for expanded research on new and modified nuclear warheads capability. But lawmakers stipulated that weapons designers must obtain prior authorization from Congress before proceeding beyond research to the engineering development phase. They also cut funds in spending bills to put the brakes on some of the administration’s plans—further complicating the picture for future research and development possibilities.

To support the revised nuclear posture first announced by President George W. Bush in January 2002, the administration proposed language in the fiscal year 2004 authorization and appropriations bills that would ramp up U.S. nuclear weapons capabilities. Authorization bills set policy guidelines and spending ceilings while appropriations bills endorse specific spending levels for a given fiscal year. Policy guidelines for the Energy Department’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) are set by the defense authorization bill while spending levels are set by the energy and water appropriations bill.

Earlier this year, the administration requested repealing a provision of the fiscal year 1994 National Defense Authorization Act that bans research on nuclear weapons with a yield of five kilotons or less and asked for funding that could be used to begin exploring new low-yield warhead designs. To enhance test readiness, the administration also proposed shortening the time required to prepare for a nuclear test, proposing to increase funding to $24.9 million for facilities and personnel supporting the Nevada Test Site. In addition, the Energy Department requested $15 million for the second year of a three-year study on developing a more effective nuclear earth-penetrating weapon. (See ACT, March 2003.)

The final version of the fiscal year 2004 National Defense Authorization Act, signed by Bush Nov. 24, authorizes NNSA to spend up to $6.4 billion for overall nuclear weapons activities—an increase of about $533 million from last year. Congress approved the repeal of the decade-long prohibition on research leading to production of low-yield nuclear weapons and authorized up to $6 million for the Advanced Concepts Initiative, which may launch work on such warheads. That resolution followed a months-long debate in which Energy Department officials argued that scientists had been barred from advancing their research by the prohibition while proponents of maintaining the research ban suggested that the Bush administration is seeking to develop “usable” nuclear weapons. (See ACT, June 2003.)

The authorization legislation requires that the Energy Department upgrade the country’s nuclear testing facilities and resources so that the United States may resume underground nuclear testing no later than 18 months after the president’s order is issued. Currently, the United States maintains a test-readiness window of 24-36 months, and the administration has raised questions about the integrity of the nuclear stockpile in the absence of testing. (See ACT, December 2002.)

The bill also authorizes up to $15 million to study possible modifications to existing nuclear weapons in order to create a more effective nuclear earth penetrator designed to root out deeply buried targets. Further, it requires the Defense and Energy Departments to produce a report describing how to integrate research and development and other activities both for conventional and nuclear earth-penetrating weapons. The final bill is expected to be signed by Bush shortly.

Congressional appropriators, however, were not as eager to rubber-stamp the administration’s funding proposals. In approving the fiscal year 2004 Energy and Water Development Appropriations Act Nov.18, Congress slashed in half funding for the earth penetrator program to $7.5 million. The appropriations bill granted the requested $6 million for the Advanced Concept Initiative but fenced off $4 million of the money to research new weapons designs until Congress receives a report on the revised nuclear stockpile plan in light of the reductions in the existing arsenal outlined in the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty signed by Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin in June. (See ACT, June 2003.) The committee also stipulated that the $24.9 million for enhanced testing capability should be used to meet the current 24-month readiness requirement before “pursu[ing] a more aggressive goal of an 18-month readiness posture.”

Despite the unexpected cuts and limitations by congressional appropriators, critics denounced the administration’s initiatives. “This funding will allow the administration to begin the research and development of new nuclear weapons—let there be no doubt,” Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said in a Nov. 10 statement. “Clearly, the nuclear door is being reopened.” Representative David Hobson (R-Ohio), chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee on energy and water development, echoed these concerns. “I don’t like a lot of this stuff,” he told the Los Angeles Times Nov. 6, adding that he is worried “about sending the wrong message to the rest of the world.”


Key Fiscal Year 2004 Nuclear Weapons Program Decisions

Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator
Second year of study on enhancing existing nuclear weapons to penetrate hardened/buried targets
$15 million
$15 million
$7.5 million
Advanced Concepts Initiative
Studies on new nuclear weapons concepts, which may include low-yield warheads
$6 million
$6 million; repealed ban on low-yield nuclear weapon research
$6 million, but $4 million withheld pending stockpile report
Enhanced Test
Preparation of Nevada Test Site for full-scale nuclear weapons tests
$24.9 million
$24.9 million; shortened readiness period to 18 months
$24.9 million
Modern Pit Facility
Design work on facility to manufacture hundreds of warhead cores each year
$22.8 million
$22.8 million
$10.8 million

2004 National Nuclear Security Administration Budget
$6.38 billion
$6.43 billion $6.27 billion







Congress has given its stamp of approval to Bush administration proposals calling for expanded research on new and modified nuclear warheads capability.

KEDO Suspends Construction of Nuclear Reactors

Paul Kerr

In the latest move in the ongoing standoff over North Korea’s nuclear program, the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Corporation (KEDO) has suspended construction of two light-water nuclear reactors (LWRs) it was charged with providing to Pyongyang under the 1994 Agreed Framework. KEDO’s Executive Board announced Nov. 21 that it would suspend construction of the two reactors for one year beginning Dec. 1. The suspension is in response to Pyongyang’s failure to meet “the conditions necessary for continuing the…project,” according to a statement from KEDO’s Executive Board, which is comprised of the United States, South Korea, Japan, and the European Union. The announcement came as the United States continued to consult with its allies on the terms and timetable for an anticipated second round of six-party talks aimed at ending North Korea’s nuclear weapons programs.

The decision to suspend the project represents a compromise between the United States and the other board members. The United States had pushed to end the project altogether, but South Korea, which is funding and building the reactors along with Japan, favored a suspension, citing public support, its financial investment, and the need to continue the project if it becomes part of a settlement with North Korea. North Korea has demanded for some time that the reactors be completed as part of a settlement to the nuclear crisis. (See ACT, October 2003.) Japan has been less vocal about the rationale for its decision, but both Seoul and Tokyo have supported greater engagement with North Korea than Washington has.

Whether reactor construction will ever resume is unclear. KEDO said the project’s future “will be assessed and decided by the Executive Board before the expiration of the suspension period,” but the Bush administration believes there is “no future for the project,” Department of State spokesman Adam Ereli said Nov. 5.

KEDO indicated that the organization would continue some of its duties. “The suspension process will require preservation and maintenance both on-site and off-site. KEDO continues to consult with [North Korea] in this process,” according to the statement. The United States has not requested funding for KEDO’s administrative budget for fiscal year 2004.

The United States set up KEDO to implement the reactor project and supply 500,000 metric tons of heavy-fuel oil each year to North Korea as part of the Agreed Framework between the two countries. The Agreed Framework defused a tense standoff following the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) discovery that Pyongyang had been diverting spent fuel from its graphite-moderated nuclear reactors for a plutonium-based nuclear weapons program. It is more difficult to use LWRs to produce fissile material for nuclear weapons.

In exchange for the reactors and fuel oil, North Korea agreed to freeze its operating five-megawatt nuclear reactor, along with two others under construction and their related facilities. The agreement also provided for the storage and monitoring of the reactors’ spent fuel, as well as its eventual removal. The first reactor was originally scheduled to be completed by 2003, but construction had fallen far behind schedule.

The decision to suspend the reactor project comes just more than a year after KEDO suspended shipments of heavy-fuel oil in reaction to U.S. claims that, during an October meeting with a U.S. delegation, North Korea admitted to having a clandestine uranium-enrichment program. Urnium enrichment can also be used to produce fissile material for nuclear weapons. (See ACT, December 2002.)

Pyongyang responded to the fuel shipments suspension by restarting its plutonium reactor and announcing its withdrawal from the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. North Korea has since claimed it has completed reprocessing the spent fuel and implied that it is using it to construct nuclear weapons. It is not known whether either claim is accurate. (See ACT, November 2003.)

North Korea’s initial response to KEDO’s most recent decision was more restrained. Reacting to a Nov. 4 KEDO announcement that the board was considering suspending the project, a North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman argued Nov. 6 that KEDO should compensate North Korea for the reactors and said North Korea would “never allow” KEDO to remove “all the [reactor project’s] equipment, facilities, materials and technical documents.”

Ereli told reporters Nov. 6 that North Korea is obligated to allow KEDO to remove these items but did not say how the United States would respond to North Korean interference.

Next Round of Talks

Meanwhile, participants in the August six-party talks held in Beijing continued efforts to reach consensus on a date and agenda for another round of talks.

President George W. Bush said in October that the United States is willing to provide a written, multilateral assurance that the United States will not attack North Korea. However, the U.S. proposal is still being developed in consultation with the other participants. A South Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman told Agence France Presse Nov. 22 that Washington and Seoul are “discussing detailed wording” of a security proposal, but the discussions are in the “early stages.”

South Korean Foreign Minister Yoon Young-kwan hinted at the agenda for the next round of talks, saying Nov. 18 that it will focus on “North Korea’s abandonment of its nuclear weapons program and a multilateral security guarantee for the North.”

A North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman repeated Nov. 16 that Pyongyang is willing to consider Bush’s idea. North Korea had previously demanded a formal nonaggression treaty, claiming it fears a U.S. attack, but softened that demand following Bush’s statement.

The Foreign Ministry spokesman also suggested Nov. 16 that Pyongyang could be flexible in its previous demands that the two sides take “simultaneous actions” to implement any agreement. North Korea has resisted the idea of dismantling its nuclear facilities before the United States takes any actions—a previous U.S. demand—because it fears Washington will pocket any concessions. The United States has also signaled flexibility on this point, but that flexibility appears limited to North Korea’s demand for a security assurance. A State Department official stated Nov. 20 that the United States would not address other North Korean demands until Pyongyang dismantles its nuclear programs.

In addition to a security assurance, Pyongyang has also called on the United States to normalize bilateral diplomatic relations, refrain from hindering North Korea’s “economic cooperation” with other countries, resume the suspended fuel-oil shipments, and increase food aid, as well as complete the reactor project.






In the latest move in the ongoing standoff over North Korea’s nuclear program, the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Corporation (KEDO) has suspended construction...

Bush Sends IAEA Legislation to Hill; Pentagon Objections Overcome

Christine Kucia

More than 18 months since submitting a bilateral agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to the Senate for approval, the Bush administration has finally completed and delivered the implementing legislation to Congress. Pentagon officials have reportedly raised concerns about IAEA oversight of U.S. nuclear fuel cycle activities, which in turn delayed efforts to secure Senate approval to allow the Additional Protocol’s entry into force.

The Additional Protocol is designed to reinforce and improve the IAEA’s safeguards against the use of “peaceful” nuclear activities for illegal nuclear weapons purposes by non-nuclear-weapon states. U.S. agreement to sign its own version of the Additional Protocol has been a significant factor in securing international support for the enhanced safeguards system. To date, 78 countries have signed additional protocols with the IAEA on the basis of the 1997 Model Protocol.

The U.S. Additional Protocol, signed on June 12, 1998, would provide the IAEA with non-military information on U.S. research, development, enrichment, and reprocessing activities; locations and capacity of fissile material production sites; export and import of nuclear material; and uses of fissile material and waste products. The agreement allows the United States to invoke “managed access” for IAEA inspectors seeking to confirm the information provided by Washington and allows the United States to make “national security exclusions.” Kenneth Brill, U.S. ambassador to the IAEA in Vienna, informed Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei on April 30, 2002, that President George W. Bush would seek the Senate’s consent. Bush transmitted the agreement to the Senate on May 9, 2002.

Administration and congressional sources familiar with the issue said that the Pentagon had raised concerns over the extent of the protocol’s oversight provisions, particularly on-site verification of U.S. facilities housing nuclear weapons-related materials. As a result, the executive branch had difficulty reaching interagency agreement on the implementing legislation that would give the administration authority to inspect private facilities under the protocol.

Consequently, it is unlikely that the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will schedule a hearing this year for the protocol. A congressional source frustrated with the protocol’s slow progress told Arms Control Today Nov. 19 that committee members “hope to move the resolution of ratification on the IAEA protocol early next year.”

The Bush administration has said the protocol is crucial to its global nonproliferation efforts. Bush indicated in the letter of transmittal that the protocol’s passage “is in the best interest of the United States.” He emphasized that U.S. leadership in enacting the Additional Protocol will enhance U.S. and global security and “greatly strengthen our ability to promote universal adoption of the Model Protocol, a central goal of my nonproliferation policy.”

The holdup in Senate action is coming at a particularly awkward time. U.S. officials have been pressuring Iran to sign and ratify an additional protocol as part of the U.S. effort to curb what it sees as Tehran’s nuclear-weapon ambitions. Iran’s agreement to strengthen its safeguards is the centerpiece of international efforts to slow down its advanced nuclear programs.






More than 18 months since submitting a bilateral agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to the Senate for approval, the Bush...

Congress Backs Bush Request for CTR Programs

Christine Kucia

Backing the Bush administrat-ion’s fiscal year 2004 request, Congress last month authorized $450.8 million for the Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) Program to safeguard and secure weapons of mass destruction and their components in the countries of the former Soviet Union. Related Department of Energy nonproliferation programs also received close to what the administration requested—about $1.3 billion. Congress authorized maximum spending limits for the programs in the defense authorization bill, which establishes policy guidelines for defense-related activities, including those in the Energy Department, that were nearly identical to the amounts approved in the appropriations bills for the Defense and Energy Departments.

To encourage the expansion of the program, Congress included a provision allowing up to $50 million in CTR funds to be used in projects beyond the boundaries of the former Soviet Union. In funding the Energy Department’s nonproliferation programs, Congress also permitted use of some International Nuclear Materials Protection and Cooperation funds in countries outside of the former Soviet Union. With this funding, the Energy Department can help secure materials at risk of theft as part of the Nuclear Radiological Threat Reduction Task Force.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) said in a statement Nov. 10 that the legislation, which allows the president to authorize rapid response to an impending threat, will help stem the proliferation of dangerous materials worldwide. “We must pay much more attention to making certain that all weapons and materials of mass destruction are identified, continuously guarded, and systematically destroyed,” Lugar stated.

An earlier attempt by the House of Representatives to cut funds for chemical weapons destruction in Russia was turned back, and the full $200.3 million that President George W. Bush requested for the program was approved. (See ACT, June 2003.) In addition, the Senate agreed to waive for another year legal conditions set out for Russia’s chemical weapons stockpile that in past years had blocked construction of chemical weapons destruction facilities. The congressional requirements for certifying Russia’s compliance with additional criteria governing chemical weapons destruction had blocked U.S. financial assistance to Russia in the past and slowed Russia’s progress in destroying its 40,000-ton chemical weapons stockpile as agreed in the Chemical Weapons Convention. (See ACT, November 2002.)

The defense authorization bill also included some key provisions to regulate the flow of funds to threat reduction projects. Acting on concerns that the program was sinking money into projects that then were abandoned, Congress required that the program obtain necessary local permits for each phase of a project before spending allocated funds and that U.S. managers be present during large construction projects.

Curt Weldon (R-Pa.), a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee, praised the oversight measures, telling ACT Nov. 19 that “CTR programs are vital to combating a serious threat to America and our national security.… [T]he new provisions included in this bill should provide the proper oversight to ensure CTR funds are used for their original purpose.”

Lawmakers also demanded that Russia allow access to biological weapons sites receiving CTR funds to verify that scientists are not performing illegal biodefense activities. In March testimony before the House panel, officials from the General Accounting Office had raised concerns that Moscow was impeding U.S. access to the facilities.

For Energy Department nonproliferation programs, Congress authorized spending up to $1.33 billion, just $8 million less than the administration’s request. Meanwhile, appropriators granted $5 million less than the authorizers to those same programs. Nonproliferation funds will support materials control and protection, transparency and verification measures, weapons-usable materials disposition, and programs to assist former Russian weapons scientists as they transition their skills to civilian activities.





Backing the Bush administrat-ion’s fiscal year 2004 request, Congress last month authorized $450.8 million for...

Battle Brewing Over Congressional Investigations

As Congress probes the Bush administration’s failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, battle lines are forming over how far the investigations should go. The Republican chairs of both the House and Senate Select Committees on Intelligence are eager to limit political damage to the White House and have limited their inquiries to examining how the intelligence community carried out its work.

Democrats insist the panels need to look beyond the quality of information that was supplied to President George W. Bush. They also want the investigations to look at whether Bush or his aides intentionally exaggerated claims about Saddam Hussein’s weapons capabilities in order to bolster their case for war. “I think the central question here is, frankly: Was there a predetermination to go to war on the part of the administration….Or was there faulty intelligence,” Jay Rockefeller (D-W. Va.), vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said in an appearance Oct. 26 on Meet the Press.

Republicans dispute the idea that Bush intentionally misled the American people. Senate Intelligence Chairman Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) told USA Today and the Washington Post that his inquiry found no evidence that the White House pressured intelligence officials.

Roberts’ assessment was bolstered to some extent by remarks from Carl W. Ford Jr., the State Department’s newly retired intelligence chief. The intelligence community “has to bear the major responsibility for WMD information in Iraq and other intelligence failures,” Ford said in remarks published in the Oct. 29 Los Angeles Times. “We badly underperformed for a number of years,” he
added, “and the information we were giving the policy community was off the mark.”

But at a hearing of the Senate Democratic Policy Committee Oct. 24, Carl Levin (D-Mich.), the ranking member of the Armed Services Committee, said the intelligence committee’s inquiry is “missing half” the issue. Levin is conducting his own inquiry, and Rockefeller has said he will launch an additional committee review to look at the administration’s use of intelligence if the majority refuses to do so.

Both Senate Democrats and Republicans grouse about the administration’s willingness to cooperate with the investigations. On Oct. 29, Roberts and Rockefeller sent a sharply-worded letter to CIA Director George Tenet after he demanded that top CIA officials be given the opportunity to respond to the panel’s preliminary findings. The letter called for the agency to provide the panel with needed information and schedule any interviews within two days. “The committee has been patient,” the senators wrote, “but we need immediate access to this information.”

The battle over the congressional investigations follows news that the Iraq Survey Group has so far failed to find actual weapons in Iraq. The head weapons inspector of that group, David Kay, received a mixed response from Congress when he briefed the House and Senate intelligence committees Oct. 2 on his “interim progress” report. Neither party could be said to be overjoyed, however, particularly after Kay told lawmakers that he needed another six to nine months and more than half-a-billion dollars to complete what many see as a fruitless investigation. The Bush administration is seeking an additional $600 million for Kay to continue his search, part of an $87 billion fiscal 2004 supplemental spending bill to pay for reconstruction costs in Iraq and Afghanistan.

To be sure, there were some Republicans who saw bright spots in the report. Porter Goss (R-Fla.), chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, took an entirely different spin from his colleagues. “Basically, I think the news is extremely good,” he stated, contending that Kay’s report actually reaffirms the administration’s decision to go to war. —With Roxane Assaf






As Congress probes the Bush administration’s failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, battle lines are forming over how far the investigations should go.

Russia Mulls Altered Nuclear Doctrine

The Russian Ministry of Defense issued a paper Oct. 2 on modernizing its strategic forces that promises a rejuvenated land-based nuclear weapons arsenal for the next 30 years and warns that Russian military doctrine may need to be revised if U.S. policy continues supporting pre-emptive military action and moves further toward developing new, low-yield weapons.

The Defense Ministry disseminated the document ahead of an Oct. 2 meeting with Russian armed forces commanders. Although changes to military doctrine must be signed by Russian President Vladimir Putin, the modernization paper informally floated some Defense Ministry ideas, signaling that a shift in Russia’s formal doctrine may be forthcoming. Russia last amended its military doctrine in April 2000. (See ACT, May 2000.)

The paper reiterates the deterrent role of Russia’s nuclear weapons but warns of possible policy changes in light of U.S. strategic choices. At the conference, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said the Kremlin had noted “attempts…to turn nuclear arms from a deterrence tool into theatre arms,” alluding to U.S. efforts to permit research into low-yield nuclear weapons, RIA Novosti reported Oct. 2. Ivanov was also quoted as calling the efforts “an extremely dangerous trend” and said that changes to Russia’s posture may be imminent if the United States lowers the threshold on the use of nuclear arms.

The Russian document responds to recent steps taken by the United States to increase the profile of its nuclear arsenal. President George W. Bush released a national strategy document in September 2002 that declared that the United States “will not hesitate to act alone, if necessary, to exercise [its] right of self-defense by acting pre-emptively.” In November 2002, Congress approved a Bush administration initiative to study modifications to existing U.S. nuclear weapons to destroy underground bunkers. As part of the fiscal year 2004 budget request issued in February 2003, the Pentagon also asked Congress for permission to research low-yield nuclear weapons.

NATO’s nuclear role also received attention in the paper, which was released several days before an Oct. 8-9 meeting of NATO defense ministers. The Defense Ministry wrote, “If NATO is preserved as a military alliance with its existing offensive military doctrine, this will demand a radical reconstruction of Russian military planning and the principles of construction of the Russian armed forces, including changes in Russian nuclear strategy,” according to an Oct. 2 Associated Press report.

Russia has been wary of NATO’s expansion plans to include former Soviet bloc members, as well as NATO peacekeeping support in Afghanistan—all of which keep NATO’s military presence close to Russian borders. Russia has also expressed concern that NATO may station nuclear weapons in the Baltic states after they accede to the alliance—an accusation that Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania have denied. (See ACT, October 2002.) At the Oct. 2 conference, Deputy Chief of the General Staff Colonel General Yuri Baluyevsky emphasized Russia’s wariness of the “anti-Russian orientation” in NATO and possible alliance plans to “lower the threshold of using nuclear weapons.”

Ivanov also discussed the possibility of Russia taking preventative action, particularly in regional situations, at the meeting with Russian military commanders. He cited “instability in border areas” that may influence future military planning, saying, “We cannot absolutely rule out preventative use of force if Russia’s interests or its obligations as an ally require it,” according to an Oct. 2 ITAR-TASS article.

At the NATO defense ministers meeting, Ivanov clarified that “Russia still regards nuclear weapons as a means of political deterrent,” Reuters reported Oct. 9. His comment distinguished Russian policy from the U.S. stance outlined in the December 2002 National Strategy to Combat Weapons of Mass Destruction. The document stated that Washington could “respond with overwhelming force—including through resort to all of our options—to the use of [weapons of mass destruction] against the United States, our forces abroad, and friends and allies.” The classified version of the document reportedly states that “overwhelming force” could include nuclear weapons. (See ACT, January/February 2003.)

Putin told the meeting that a stockpile of SS-19 missiles, which until now have not been operational and have been stored in what Putin termed a “dry state,” will bolster Russia’s aging land-based arsenal, keeping the country’s deterrent viable until at least 2030. According to Putin, replacing older weapons with the SS-19s from the stockpile will give Russia “enough time in order to work to develop new [twenty-first-century] weapons.” Putin claimed that the changes to the Russian arsenal are in compliance with its obligations under the 2002 Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty, in which Putin and Bush each agreed to reduce nuclear warhead holdings to 1,700-2,200 by 2012. (See ACT, June 2002.)






The Russian Ministry of Defense issued a paper Oct. 2 on modernizing its strategic forces that promises a rejuvenated land-based nuclear...

Bush Hints at North Korea Security Agreement

Some headway was made in October toward breaking the stalemate between the United States and North Korea, but it is far from clear that the year-long crisis surrounding North Korea’s nuclear program will be settled anytime soon. President George W. Bush said Oct. 19 that the United States is willing to provide a written, multilateral guarantee that the United States will not attack North Korea—an indication that the United States will present a concrete offer to North Korea if future multilateral discussions are held. North Korea said Oct. 25 that it is willing to consider the still-developing U.S. proposal but announced earlier in the month that it is closer to developing additional nuclear weapons.

The U.S. proposal is still a work in progress and will be developed in consultation with the other participants in the six-party talks. Although the state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported Oct. 30 that North Korea has “in principle” accepted a new round of multilateral talks, no date has been set.

The crisis began in October 2002 when a U.S. delegation told North Korean officials that Washington possessed intelligence confirming Pyongyang’s pursuit of a uranium enrichment program. Such a program can produce fissile material for nuclear weapons.

Since then, the crisis has escalated. North Korea pulled out of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), restarted its plutonium-based nuclear facilities frozen under the 1994 Agreed Framework, and regularly reported advances in its nuclear weapons capabilities. The Agreed Framework defused the first North Korean nuclear crisis by providing North Korea with heavy-fuel oil and two proliferation-resistant light-water reactors in exchange for freezing its plutonium program. Construction on the reactors has not been terminated, but the oil shipments were suspended in November 2002 in an effort to pressure North Korea.

The apparent decision to negotiate with North Korea is part of an evolution in stated U.S. policy. Administration officials had previously dismissed the idea of negotiating a settlement to the crisis as giving in to blackmail.

Two rounds of talks aimed at resolving the crisis have taken place in Beijing since October 2002. The United States, North Korea, and China took part in the first round in April and were joined by Japan, Russia, and South Korea for a second round in August. Neither round yielded an agreement. The United States has said its delegation to the August talks did not make an explicit offer but signaled Washington’s willingness to compromise with North Korea. North Korea argues that Washington simply restated its previous policy, however, and U.S. allies have said they want the administration to be more flexible. (See ACT, October 2003.) Bush’s statement came during a trip to Asia earlier this month, where he consulted with other participants in the six-party talks.

U.S. officials have said repeatedly that Washington has no intention of attacking North Korea and have indicated their willingness to provide a written agreement to this effect. Department of State officials said in September that the United States is willing to employ a step-by-step approach to resolve the crisis, rather than continuing to insist that North Korea first completely dismantle its nuclear facilities.

Still, the administration has also emphasized multilateral diplomacy with Pyongyang and said it wants any security agreement to be concluded within the context of the six-party talks. Bush said Oct. 19 that previous bilateral agreements with North Korea have failed, asserting that North Korea “cheated” on the Agreed Framework. Administration officials have previously argued that multilateral negotiations will be more effective than bilateral ones because North Korea will feel increased pressure to comply in a multilateral setting.

Although the Agreed Framework is a bilateral agreement, its implementation is multilateral in nature. For example, South Korea, Japan, and the European Union share membership on the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization’s (KEDO) executive board. KEDO is the U.S.-led consortium that is charged with supplying the heavy-fuel oil and building the reactors under the Agreed Framework.
The United States has not yet decided on a precise formulation for a security arrangement, but the United States has addressed the question in past official statements. For example, the Agreed Framework requires the United States to “provide formal assurances” to North Korea that the United States will not threaten or use nuclear weapons. Additionally, the two countries stated in an October 2000 Joint Communiqué that neither “would have hostile intent toward the other.”

The Way Forward

After initially dismissing Bush’s statement Oct. 21 as “laughable,” a North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman said Oct. 25 that Pyongyang would “consider” Bush’s comments, according to KCNA. The spokesman added, however, that any U.S. proposal would have to come with “the intention” for the two countries to “coexist” and be part of a step-by-step solution to the crisis. Pyongyang is currently evaluating the “intentions” behind Bush’s remark, the spokesman said, labeling discussions of further six-party talks “premature.” Secretary of State Colin Powell said Oct. 26 that North Korea contacted the United States about the matter two days before.

There are several potential obstacles to a settlement. One question is whether the U.S. proposal will be sufficient to satisfy North Korea’s concerns about its relations with the United States. Pyongyang has condemned Washington’s preference for multilateral solutions as a tactic intended to divert attention away from what Pyongyang regards as the real issue: Washington’s “hostile policy” of placing economic pressure on North Korea and threatening it with military force, including use of nuclear weapons.
In particular, North Korea cites a September 2002 document describing the U.S. National Security Strategy, which explicitly mentions North Korea and emphasizes pre-emptive action to counter threats from countries developing weapons of mass destruction. To justify their stated fears of a pre-emptive nuclear attack, North Korean officials cite a leaked version of the Bush administration’s January 2002 classified Nuclear Posture Review, which lists North Korea as a country against which the United States should be prepared to use nuclear weapons in the event of a military confrontation.

The administration has pursued other aspects of a containment policy, such as attempting to persuade allies such as Japan and Australia to interdict Pyongyang’s sources of hard currency. Moreover, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz argued in May that other regional powers should threaten to cut off aid to North Korea if it does not change its objectionable policies.

Bush made it clear during an Oct. 19 press conference that a formal nonaggression pact—a persistent North Korean demand—was “off the table.” North Korea said Oct. 7 that it wants U.S. security assurances to come in the form of a treaty because it does not trust Congress or future administrations to adhere to policies made by any president, according to a KCNA statement. North Korea has frequently argued that the United States did not live up to its commitments under the Agreed Framework, citing delays in the reactors’ construction and the administration’s “hostile policy.”

North Korea has also previously rejected the idea of a multilateral security agreement. An Aug. 19 KCNA statement dismissed such a plan as a diversionary tactic and referred to “the concept of ‘collective security’” as “an insult” to North Korea, suggesting that Pyongyang wants to be seen as an equal to the United States in any negotiations.

The specifics of implementing any agreement may well prove to be another sticking point. Pyongyang has resisted the notion of dismantling its reactor before concluding an agreement with the United States because it believes the United States will simply pocket any concessions. Washington has yet to finalize either the specific steps required by each side or the sequence in which they will be implemented.
It is also unclear how the United States intends to address other North Korean demands. Pyongyang has called on the United States to normalize bilateral diplomatic relations, refrain from hindering North Korea’s “economic cooperation” with other countries, complete the reactors promised under the Agreed Framework, resume suspended fuel oil shipments, and increase food aid.

Pyongyang’s declaration that it would discuss verification measures for any agreement “only after the [United States] drops its hostile policy” could also complicate a settlement.

Upping the Ante

Meanwhile, North Korea again upped the ante in the nuclear crisis on the Korean peninsula, announcing earlier this month that it had completed reprocessing the spent fuel rods from its five-megawatt nuclear reactor and implying that it was using the resulting plutonium to construct nuclear weapons. Pyongyang further increased concern Oct. 16 by issuing what may have been a veiled threat to test nuclear weapons.

North Korea had privately made the reprocessing claim earlier, but an Oct. 2 KCNA statement marked Pyongyang’s first public pronouncement.

An Oct. 3 KCNA statement said that the country completed reprocessing the spent fuel rods in June, and an Oct. 2 statement noted that Pyongyang “made a switchover in the use” of the spent fuel “in the direction increasing [sic] its nuclear deterrent force.” The earlier statement added that North Korea would continue to produce and reprocess additional spent fuel when deemed necessary.

According to Powell and other U.S. diplomats, North Korean officials on more than one occasion have told their U.S. counterparts that they had completed reprocessing the spent fuel.

But U.S. officials have expressed skepticism about the earlier announcements and continue to cast doubt on the North Korean claims. Powell told reporters Oct. 2 that Washington has “no evidence” that Pyongyang has reprocessed the spent fuel rods, adding that the United States would “continue to pursue diplomacy.” North Korean officials have said Pyongyang possesses nuclear weapons, but it is unclear whether this is the case.

North Korea’s possible suggestion that it may test nuclear weapons came in a Oct. 16 announcement from KCNA, which stated that Pyongyang will “take a measure to open its nuclear deterrent to the public as a physical force” if the United States refuses to change its negotiating stance.

The Oct. 2 KCNA statement also said that Pyongyang is “stepping up the preparations for the construction of a graphite-moderated reactor.” Whether this statement refers to incomplete reactors whose construction was frozen under the Agreed Framework is uncertain, but the announcement could be a signal that North Korea intends to produce additional fissile material for nuclear weapons. Graphite-moderated reactors are better suited for producing nuclear weapons-grade fuel than their light-water replacements. These plants could produce enough fuel for approximately 30 nuclear devices per year, according to an August Congressional Research Service (CRS) report.

Powell has said that North Korea’s fuel rods could yield enough plutonium for as many as six nuclear devices, and the CRS report estimates the reactor could produce enough fissile material for one weapon per year.

North Korea produced the spent fuel rods before agreeing to freeze operating the reactor and its related facilities in accordance with the Agreed Framework. North Korea announced in December that it was restarting the reactor, and U.S. officials confirmed in February that it had done so.

At the same time it announced its reprocessing claim, North Korea also reiterated two previous claims regarding its nuclear intentions. North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Choe Su Hon said North Korea has no intention of exporting nuclear material to other countries, Xinhua News Agency reported Oct. 2. Additionally, the Oct. 2 KCNA statement repeated North Korea’s claim that its nuclear weapons are solely for defensive purposes.



Some headway was made in October toward breaking the stalemate between the United States and North Korea, but it is far from clear that the year-long crisis surrounding...

India, Pakistan Move Forward With New Weapons

South Asia’s ballistic missile competition moved to a new phase in October. Amid news that India’s Agni I and II ballistic missiles were ready for deployment and had been handed over to the army, Pakistan conducted a round of three ballistic missile tests that concluded Oct. 14. In other developments, India announced it had established a credible second-strike capability. Nevertheless, both countries avowed their peaceful intentions.

Indian Prime Minister Bihari Vajpayee said that India’s establishment of new alternative military command centers did not mark a more aggressive stance by New Delhi. Vajpayee stressed that India’s nuclear policy is “firmly predicated” on the principle of a no-first-use policy. “Our nuclear weapons are meant to deter irresponsible military adventurism, not to fight a nuclear war,” he said in an interview with the Thai newspaper Matichon during a visit to Thailand Oct. 9.

Pakistani officials tried to play down the strategic significance of their country’s missile tests, calling the round a purely technical effort rather than a provocative gesture toward India and stressing that it had been in the works for some time. “These tests do not have any specific reasons beyond military purposes,” Pakistani military spokesperson Maj. Gen. Shaukat Sultan Khan told Voice of America Oct. 14. “These tests have been done only to validate the design parameters, which are purely technical reasons. There is no message to be sent across, and these are not in any [way] a tit-for-tat response.”

Still, Pakistani Foreign Minister Khurshid Mahmood Kasuri claimed during the Organization of the Islamic Conference in Malaysia Oct. 14 that India’s plans to buy the Phalcon airborne early-warning radar system and other defense systems “pose[] a credible threat to Pakistan” and that Pakistan “will be forced to acquire new generation defense systems,” according to the Press Trust of India news agency.

In March, India and Pakistan did engage in what was seen as a tit for tat when each country tested short-range nuclear-capable missiles on the same day. (See ACT, April 2003.)

Tests Successful

The recent round of testing began on Oct. 3 with the firing of Pakistan’s Hatf-3 Ghaznavi, a short-range ballistic missile capable of carrying payloads of 500 kg up to a range of 290 kilometers (182 miles). The Pakistani military said in a statement that the test, the second of the Ghaznavi missile, showed all design parameters had been successfully validated.

The following two tests, on Oct. 8 and Oct. 14, were both conducted using the medium-range Hatf-4. Also known as Shaheen-1, the surface-to-surface missile is capable of carrying payloads of 500 kg up to 700 kilometers (or about 435 miles, i.e., deep into India). The Pakistani military said the tests were successful and that a longer-range version of the Hatf series will be tested in the future. (See ACA missile fact sheet, www.armscontrol.org/factsheets/missiles.asp.) Both missiles tested this month are capable of carrying a nuclear payload.

Indian Command Centers Set Up

Meanwhile, Indian Defense Minister George Fernandes said the country’s nuclear command chain is in place. In declaring Oct. 5 that India’s Agni I and Agni II ballistic missiles have been handed over to the army for deployment, Fernandes acknowledged that India has established alternative nuclear command centers to ensure retaliation from a nuclear strike and has set up nuclear shelters and bunkers to protect officials in case of an attack. “We have established more than one [nuclear control] nerve center,” Fernandes told The Press Trust of India. “India as a declared nuclear-weapon state has been on this job from day one.”

The Agni I has a range of up to 700 kilometers (435 miles), and the Agni II has a range of up to 2,000 kilometers (1,250 miles). Each is capable of carrying payloads of 1,000 kg.

U.S. Cautions Restraint

Responding to Pakistan’s missile tests, the United States continued to urge India and Pakistan to “take steps to restrain their nuclear-weapon and missile programs, including no operational deployment of nuclear-armed ballistic missiles,” Department of State spokesperson Richard Boucher said during a press briefing Oct. 14. The United States is also encouraging both countries to begin a dialogue on “confidence-building measures that could reduce the likelihood that such weapons would ever be used,” Boucher added. Boucher’s comments followed meetings between Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage and Pakistani officials in Islamabad Oct. 6. Near the end of the month India announced some dozen “peace” proposals and Pakistan was deciding how to respond.



South Asia’s ballistic missile competition moved to a new phase in October. Amid news that India’s Agni I and II ballistic missiles were ready for deployment and had been handed over to the army...


Subscribe to RSS - Press Releases