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Former IAEA Director-General
News Briefs

Japan Downplays Possibility of Hosting INF-Range Missiles

Japan’s new defense minister downplayed the prospect that Japan might host U.S. intermediate-range missiles formerly banned by the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty.

Japanese Defense Minister Taro Kono, speaking here on Sept. 11, said that as of Oct. 31, the United States and Japan had not discussed the possibility of Japan hosting U.S. intermediate-range missiles. (Photo: Tomohiro Ohsumi/Getty Images)In an Oct. 31 interview with The Financial Times, Defense Minister Taro Kono said, “The U.S. doesn’t have non-nuclear missiles that can be deployed yet. Maybe they’re in the phase of development. We have not been discussing any of it.”

U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said in August after the demise of the INF Treaty that he would like to see the deployment of U.S. conventional, ground-launched, intermediate-range missiles in Europe and Asia, ideally as soon as possible. South Korea and Australia said at the time that they were not considering such a deployment.

Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in November continued to rebuke the Trump administration for “dismantling” the treaty, saying that “our American colleagues were only engaged in searching for pretexts to get rid of the INF Treaty.” He also stated that Moscow will not deploy ground-launched, intermediate-range missiles until the United States does.

The Pentagon has stated that it would conduct a test of a ground-launched ballistic missile with a range of about 3,000 to 4,000 kilometers by the end of the year, but the test does not appear to have taken place yet. On Aug. 18, the United States flight-tested a ground-launched cruise missile that would have been prohibited by the INF Treaty.

Signed in 1987, the INF Treaty led to the elimination of 2,692 U.S. and Soviet nuclear and conventional ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles having ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers.—SHANNON BUGOS

Japan Downplays Possibility of Hosting INF-Range Missiles

CWC States Update List of Banned Chemicals


After months of wrangling, the 24th conference of states-parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) agreed on Nov. 28 to update the list of Schedule 1 chemicals banned by the treaty to include the advanced nerve agents known as Novichok.

A New Scotland Yard official speaks to the media in 2018 about the investigation into the use of the Novichok nerve agent to attempt to assassinate Sergei Skripal in England in 2018.  (Photo: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)Novichok was developed by the Soviet Union during the Cold War years before the CWC entered into force in 1997. The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) confirmed that it was used in the attempted assassination of Russian spy-turned-double-agent Sergei Skripal in 2018.

Russia initially objected to a proposal from Canada, the Netherlands, and the United States to add Novichok to the list of banned substances but shifted its position after states accepted its alternative proposal to add other types of chemicals to the Schedule 1 list.

The changes to the Schedule of the Annex on Chemicals will enter into force for all states-parties 180 days after the date of the notification sent by the OPCW director-general.

OPCW Director-General Fernando Arias noted in a statement issued Nov. 28 that “this is the first time in its history” that the annex has been updated.

“This is an important development that demonstrates the adaptability of the [CWC] to changing threats while enhancing the OPCW’s ability to remain vigilant, agile, and fit for purpose,” Arias said.—DARYL G. KIMBALL

CWC States Update List of Banned Chemicals

NRC Will Not Require Drone Defenses


The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) announced on Oct. 30 that it would not require nuclear power plant operators to defend against drone attacks.

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission has concluded that U.S. nuclear power plants, such as New York's Indian Point Energy Center, need not take additional security measures to protect against drone attacks. (Photo: Tony Fischer/Flickr)The NRC sets protection requirements for nuclear power plants and has been studying the threat posed by drones for the past two years. In an unclassified summary published in October, the commission concluded that nuclear power plants “do not have any risk-significant vulnerabilities that could be exploited” by drone attacks that would result in “radiological sabotage” or theft of special nuclear material. The NRC said it would continue evaluating the impact of drone technologies.

Edwin Lyman, the acting director of the Nuclear Safety Project at the Union of Concerned Scientists, said in a Nov. 4 press release that the decision “ignores the wide spectrum of threats that drones pose to nuclear facilities.” He said that the NRC “seems more interested in keeping the cost of nuclear plant security low than protecting Americans from terrorist sabotage that could cause a reactor meltdown.”

No nuclear power reactor worldwide appears to have been attacked by a drone to date, but Greenpeace flew a drone into a nuclear power reactor in France in July 2018 to demonstrate the site’s vulnerabilities.—KELSEY DAVENPORT

NRC Will Not Require Drone Defenses

Decision on Autonomous Weapons Talks Eludes CCW

 

States parties to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) discussed in November the danger of lethal autonomous weapons systems, often referred to as “killer robots,” but could not agree to begin a formal process of creating a legal instrument to govern their development and use. This is the fifth year in which the topic has been addressed by the CCW, which seeks to control especially harmful or indiscriminate conventional arms.

The Campaign to Stop Killer Robots has called for a treaty to ban lethal autonomous weapons. (Photo: Oli Scarff/Getty Images)In the final report of the CCW’s annual meeting, adopted by consensus after considerable debate, the members of the CCW endorsed guiding principles for autonomous weapons that had been drafted in August by a Group of Governmental Experts. These state that international humanitarian law applies fully to autonomous weapons and that “human responsibility for decisions on the use of weapons systems must be retained.”

Some parties, as well as civil society representatives, derided the lack of progress toward a more comprehensive prohibition. Several dozen states are in support of some form of legal framework binding autonomous weapons development and use, and 30 have explicitly supported banning them by treaty, according to the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots. The group, a coalition of nongovernmental organizations, stated that “pressure is building on states to launch negotiations on a new treaty on fully autonomous weapons without delay.”

The states parties to the CCW agreed that the Group of Governmental Experts will meet again for two five-day sessions in 2020 to continue their discussion on the “aspects of the normative and operational framework” of autonomous weapons. Additional days of discussion are also planned for 2021.—OWEN LeGRONE

Decision on Autonomous Weapons Talks Eludes CCW

U.S. Alleges New Syrian Chlorine Attack


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

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

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

U.S. Alleges New Syrian Chlorine Attack

China Considers Joining ATT

 

China expressed an interest in becoming a party to the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) at the 74th session of the UN General Assembly on Sept. 27.

In a prepared speech, Foreign Affairs Minister Wang Yi stated that his country had “initiated the domestic legal procedures to join” the treaty. Shortly afterward, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang clarified that China is “striving for its accession to the ATT at an early date.”

China previously released a statement expressing an interest in joining the ATT on April 30, following U.S. President Donald Trump’s public rejection of the agreement. The treaty had been signed in September 2013 by the Obama administration but never ratified. At an April 26 event hosted by the National Rifle Association, Trump announced that he was withdrawing the United States from the treaty, claiming that it would allow “foreign bureaucrats” to “trample” on freedoms guaranteed by the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

The ATT, which entered into force on Dec. 24, 2014, establishes international standards designed to prevent illegal arms sales and sales of arms that could be used in the commission of genocide, war crimes, and other violations of international humanitarian law. It requires states-parties to create a domestic arms trade accounting system, regulate the brokering of weapons within their territory, report regularly on treaty implementation, and decline arms sales under certain conditions.

China's accession to the ATT, which now has 105 states-parties, would be significant because it is one of the world’s five largest global arms exporters.—OWEN LeGRONE

China Considers Joining ATT

CD Fails to Adopt Program of Work

 

For the 10th consecutive year, the Conference on Disarmament (CD) concluded in mid-September without reaching consensus on the adoption of a program of work.

The final report on the conference stated that throughout the 2019 session, successive CD presidents “conducted intensive consultations with a view to reaching a consensus on a program of work,” but despite those efforts, they “did not succeed.” Since the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty opened for signature in 1996, the 65-member, Geneva-based CD has managed to adopt a program of work only twice, in 1998 and 2009.

The 2019 session involved 48 formal plenary meetings and 16 informal meetings. In February, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged states to overcome their differences and warned that “key components of the international arms control architecture are collapsing.” He specifically referenced the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, which ultimately collapsed in August, and the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, which is scheduled to expire in February 2021. “I urge you in the strongest possible terms to take a decisive action to safeguard and preserve the existing system through dialogue that will help restore trust,” Guterres said.

In addition to Guterres, representatives from nearly 40 countries addressed the conference over the course of the 2019 session, including the United States and Russia. All these dignitaries, according to the final report, “expressed concern about the Conference’s current situation.”

The CD’s permanent agenda contains 10 items, but there are four core issues: nuclear disarmament, a treaty banning the production of fissile material, the prevention of an arms race in outer space, and negative security assurances. The current deadlock is largely attributed to disagreements between members about the prioritization of those issues and attempts to link progress on one issue to progress on another.—SHANNON BUGOS

CD Fails to Adopt Program of Work

India Boosts Range of BrahMos Cruise Missile


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

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

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

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

India Boosts Range of BrahMos Cruise Missile

India Considers No-First-Use Changes

 

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

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

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

India Considers No-First-Use Changes

Four Candidates Vie to Lead IAEA

 

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) announced in September that it has received four nominations of candidates to become the agency’s sixth director-general. The four are seeking to succeed Yukiya Amano of Japan, who died in office on July 18, midway through his third term. (See ACT, September 2019.)

The candidates are Cornel Feruta of Romania, Rafael Mariano Grossi of Argentina, Lassina Zerbo of Burkina Faso, and Marta Ziakova of Slovakia. They are scheduled to meet in early October with the agency’s 35-nation Board of Governors, which must approve a candidate by a two-thirds majority. The board’s selection will then be sent to the agency’s entire membership for its approval, with a goal of completing the selection process by the end of the year.

Feruta is the agency’s acting director-general, stepping up to the post after previously serving as Amano’s deputy. Grossi is Argentina’s ambassador to the IAEA and previously served as the agency’s assistant director-general for policy in the agency. Zerbo is executive secretary of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization. Ziakova is chairperson of the Slovak Nuclear Regulatory Authority and has previously chaired the agency’s Board of Governors and General Conference.—GREG WEBB

Four Candidates Vie to Lead IAEA

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