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former IAEA Director-General

News Briefs

Advances Made in Aegis Intercept Test

Advances Made in Aegis Intercept Test

 

In a December 11 test, the Aegis Ashore-launched Standard Missile-3 Block IIA interceptor successfully intercepted an intermediate-range ballistic missile target.  (Photo: Missile Defense Agency)For the first time, the Aegis Ashore-launched Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) Block IIA interceptor successfully intercepted an intermediate-range ballistic missile target using the ability to “engage on remote,” which allows for an earlier attempted intercept of a ballistic missile using a forward-based sensor. The Dec. 11 test occurred on the heels of another test of the interceptor on Oct. 26, which successfully intercepted a medium-range missile target using its native radar to guide the interceptor. Overall, the December test was the third successful intercept by the SM-3 Block IIA out of five total tests. Further tests of the interceptor are needed to validate its capability more fully.

The SM-3 Block IIA was intended to be deployed by 2018 at Aegis Ashore sites in Poland and later Romania under the third stage of the European Phased Adaptive Approach, a U.S. initiative backed by NATO to build ballistic missile defense sites in Europe. But that stage, which has caused tensions between the United States and Russia, has been delayed until 2020. (See ACT, April 2018.) The Japanese government also plans to construct two Aegis Ashore sites by 2023 to supplement its Patriot batteries. The SM-3 Block IIA is designed to destroy short- and intermediate-range ballistic missiles in the midcourse phase and is a larger and faster version of the SM-3 Block IA and IB. It is a joint U.S.-Japanese development via Raytheon and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries.—SHERVIN TAHERAN

Posted: January 8, 2019

Russia Blocks Move on Killer Robots Ban

Russia Blocks Move on Killer Robots Ban

 

Parties to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW), meeting Nov. 21–23 in Geneva, failed to advance consideration of lethal autonomous weapons systems to a higher level of international discussion, mainly due to opposition from Russia and a few other countries. For the past several years, a group of governmental experts, largely drawn from CCW signatory states’ delegations, has been considering the implications of such weapons, particularly with respect to their potential violations of the laws of war and international humanitarian law. The experts group has also weighed the possibility of negotiating within the CCW framework a binding prohibition on the development and use of fully autonomous weapons.

Several dozen states, along with nongovernmental organizations, have sought negotiations on a ban on so-called killer robots, but face opposition from countries such as Israel, Russia, and the United States. (See ACT, September 2018.) Ban advocates had hoped that the Geneva talks would open the way for negotiations this year, but Russia blocked the required consensus. Instead, delegates decided that the experts group will meet this year for further discussions. Ban supporters, expressing disappointment, said they will continue working within the CCW while seeking other options. “Russia demonstrated conclusively that the CCW is unlikely to make any meaningful progress on this issue,” said Stephen Goose of the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots.—MICHAEL KLARE

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

Mine Ban Nears 20th Anniversary

Mine Ban Nears 20th Anniversary

 

With the Mine Ban Treaty approaching its 20th anniversary in March, delegates to the annual meeting of states-parties in November welcomed progress on many treaty requirements and again “condemned the use of anti-personnel mines by any actor” as they reaffirmed their “aspiration to meet the goals of the [treaty] to the fullest extent possible by 2025.”

A fighter with Yemen’s Tariq Salah forces, a militia aligned with the Saudi-backed government, shows landmines reportedly found in September at an outpost of the Houthi rebels.  (Photo: Andrew Renneisen/Getty Images)According to the “Landmine Monitor” report, only one country could be confirmed to have used landmines in the previous year, which was Myanmar, a state not among the 164 parties to the treaty. Nonstate armed groups used mines in at least eight countries, frequently employing improvised devices, according to a report from the International Campaign to Ban Landmines released just prior to the Nov. 26–30 meeting in Geneva. For the third year in a row, the report also identified atypically high numbers of casualties due to landmines, cluster munition remnants, and other remnants of war. Of 7,239 casualties recorded in 2017, more than 4,200 occurred in Afghanistan and Syria, and more than 2,700 casualties worldwide were due to improvised mines.

The November meeting celebrated declarations from Mauritania that it had completed landmine clearance and from Oman that it had finished destroying its landmine stockpile, steps required under the treaty. The report also noted that international support to efforts to prevent and address problems due to mines reached a record $670 million in 2017.—JEFF ABRAMSON

Posted: January 8, 2019

Putin Sets Hypersonic Deployment Plan

Putin Sets Hypersonic Deployment Plan

 

Russia’s Avangard hypersonic glide vehicle was successfully tested Dec. 26 in the presence of President Vladimir Putin and will be deployed during 2019, according a Kremlin statement. Putin noted the Avangard system, built to carry a nuclear warhead, will be “impervious to current and future” air and missile defenses of a “potential enemy,” a response to long-standing Russian concern that U.S. missile defense systems in combination with U.S. nuclear forces enable Washington to threaten Moscow’s retaliatory nuclear capability. The latest test is the third reported success out of six reported tests of the Yu-71 configuration since 2013. According to reports, the first two Avangard launchers will be deployed on two SS-19 intercontinental ballistic missiles based at Dombarovsky in 2019, and a total of 12 are expected to be deployed there by the end of 2027. A hypersonic glide vehicle, which travels at speeds of 5,000 to 25,000 kilometers per hour, can change its trajectory during flight and fly at varying altitudes.—SHERVIN TAHERAN

Posted: January 8, 2019

France Calls for Global Cybersecurity

France Calls for Global Cybersecurity

 

French President Emmanuel Macron delivers a speech November 12 during the opening session of the Internet Governance Forum at the UNESCO headquarters in Paris.  (Photo: Ludovic Marin/AFP/Getty Images)The United States, alongside countries such as China, Iran, and Israel, and Russia did not sign a broad statement of cybersecurity principles unveiled by French President Emmanuel Macron at the Internet Governance Forum sponsored by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization in Paris on Nov. 12. The principles, titled “Paris Call for Trust and Security in Cyberspace,” were signed by 51 countries, including all states of the European Union, as well as more than 130 companies and 90 universities and nongovernmental organizations. The document was hailed by supporters as a potential framework for a “digital Geneva Convention” and, despite the lack of participation by the United States, has had the support of U.S. powerhouse companies such as Microsoft, Google, Facebook, HP, and IBM.

The principles are an outline that urges states to protect civilians, to refrain from using cyberattacks indiscriminately, and to strengthen capabilities to prevent malign activities such as digital manipulation of elections and theft of business information. It encourages cooperation among governments and private entities to promote a safer cyberspace. Despite the broad language, some countries, such as the United States, are reluctant to limit their cyberweapons options. The principles will be followed by further talks on the subject at the 2019 Paris Peace Forum and the 2019 Berlin Internet Governance Forum.—SHERVIN TAHERAN

Posted: January 8, 2019

Europeans Advance Alternative Payment System for Iran | P4+1 and Iran Nuclear Deal Alert, December 5, 2018

Europeans Advance Alternative Payment System for Iran Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi said that Iran will give the European Union more time to work out the details of its Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV), destined to facilitate trade with Iran, but said that Tehran will not “wait forever.” While Iran remains in compliance with the multilateral nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Iranian officials have repeatedly stated that Tehran will abandon the agreement if it is no longer in the country’s best interest. The SPV, announced by EU foreign policy...

Russian Chemical Weapons Use Draws More Sanctions

Russian Chemical Weapons Use Draws More Sanctions


U.S. President Donald Trump shakes hands with Russian President Vladimir Putin as they gather with other leaders for a November 11 ceremony in Paris marking the 100th anniversary of the 1918 armistice that ended World War I.   (Photo: Ludovic Marin/AFP/Getty Images)The United States confirmed on Nov. 6 that it will impose a second, more severe round of sanctions on Russia for its use of chemical weapons in the United Kingdom. To avoid the additional sanctions under the Chemical and Biological Weapons Control and Warfare Elimination Act, Russia had to provide reliable assurances that it is no longer using chemical weapons, will not do so in the future, and will allow international inspectors to verify its assurances. Russia continues to deny that it used or possesses chemical weapons. Robert Palladino, a State Department spokesman, said on Nov. 7 that the U.S. administration was considering implementation plans. Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.), outgoing chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, in a statement pressed for action, stating that “hesitation only encourages more Russian aggression.”

U.S. options for additional sanctions include banning multilateral development bank assistance or U.S. bank loans except loans for food or agricultural commodities, imposing additional export prohibitions or import restrictions, suspending diplomatic relations, and terminating air carrier landing rights. After an Aug. 6 U.S. determination that Russia had used a nerve agent in an attack against a former spy in the UK, the first round of sanctions took effect Aug. 27 and included a ban on U.S. exports to Russia related to national security, such as gas turbine engines, electronics, integrated circuits, and testing and calibration equipment that were previously allowed on a case-by-case basis. (See ACT, September 2018).—ALICIA SANDERS-ZAKRE

Posted: December 1, 2018

Missile Defense Review Still Pending

Missile Defense Review Still Pending


Public release of a congressionally directed missile defense review, originally mandated to be done by the end of last January, has continued to be delayed, and a final timeline for release is unclear as some Defense Department officials say the report is completed and undergoing unspecified “final deliberation.” (See ACT, May 2017.) The tentative timing for release has been repeatedly pushed off for unknown reasons. In addition to a standard procedural final review process, there may be administration concerns about the potential to disrupt negotiations between the United States and North Korea by releasing a document outlining a strategy to counter North Korea’s capabilities. In April, Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan explained that part of the postponement resulted from the delayed Senate confirmation of John Rood, who took office in January as undersecretary of defense for policy. The review has been rescheduled from a late 2017 release to February, then mid-May. On Sept. 4, Rood told an audience at the Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance that it would be out in the “next few weeks.” In early November, Pentagon spokesman Col. Rob Manning said that the report was in the final stages of staffing and that the Pentagon wants to make sure that the review is “coordinated.”—SHERVIN TAHERAN

Posted: December 1, 2018

Human Rights Body Condemns WMD

Human Rights Body Condemns WMD


The interpretative body of a major human rights treaty called the use or threat of use of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), including nuclear weapons, “incompatible with the respect for the right to life,” adding that it may be a “crime under international law,” in new commentary adopted Oct. 30 on the treaty’s implementation. The Human Rights Committee is composed of international experts who monitor implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which has 172 states-parties, including all nuclear-armed countries except China, which is a signatory.

The commentary, coupled with the adoption of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, reflects a “new, more human-centered trend towards nuclear disarmament,” Daniel Rietiker, an adjunct professor of international law and human rights at the University of Lausanne, wrote in a blog post Nov. 7. But several nuclear-armed states argued when the commentary was being considered that weapons of mass destruction were beyond the scope of the ICCPR. The new commentary also asserts that states-parties must stop WMD proliferation, destroy existing stockpiles, respect obligations to pursue good faith negotiations on nuclear disarmament, and provide “reparations” to victims of nuclear weapons use and testing.

The last comment from the Human Rights Committee on nuclear weapons was in 1984, which stated that nuclear weapons “are among the greatest threats to the right of life which confront mankind today” and that their use “should be considered” a crime against humanity.—ALICIA SANDERS-ZAKRE

Posted: December 1, 2018

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