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– Hans Blix,
former IAEA Director-General

News Briefs

Anti-Landmine Efforts Draw Funding

Anti-Landmine Efforts Draw Funding 

May 2017
By Danielle Preskitt

The United Kingdom marked the International Day of Mine Awareness and Assistance with a pledge of 100 million pounds ($125 million) over three years to support landmine clearance projects in Afghanistan, Cambodia, Somalia, and South Sudan. Prince Harry said the action by the UK government extends the legacy of his late mother, Princess Diana, who drew attention to the “horrific and indiscriminate impact of landmines.” Harry is supporting the campaign to rid the world of landmines by 2025. “Even if the world decided tomorrow to ban these weapons, this terrible legacy of mines already in the earth would continue to plague the poor nations of the globe,” he said in an April 4 speech quoting her in London.

Prince Harry attends the Landmine Free World 2025 reception on International Mine Awareness Day April 4 in London. Credit: John Phillips/Getty ImagesThe UK is not alone in making further commitments to mine-action funding this year. Switzerland promised $3.5 million through 2019 for projects in Cambodia. Japan donated approximately $7.5 million for UN Mine Action Service projects in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iraq, Somalia, South Sudan, and Sudan. Canada pledged $5.8 million for anti-mine work in Iraq, Sri Lanka, and Ukraine. The Netherlands promised $2.1 million to train demining teams in Syria. Mexico donated $1 million to support work in Colombia. The United States, the largest funder, provided about $119 million in 2015, according to the Landmine Monitor, which found that total international funding declined from about $500 million in 2012 to $352 million in 2015.

Posted: May 1, 2017

G-7 Lowers Voice on Nuclear Disarmament

G-7 Lowers Voice on Nuclear Disarmament

May 2017
By Alicia Sanders-Zakre

Foreign ministers of the Group of Seven major industrialized nations, in an April 11 statement following their meeting in Italy, softened previous backing for nuclear disarmament and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). They made only brief reference to nuclear disarmament with a call for “an inclusive step-by-step, progressive approach . . . to create conditions that could allow a world without nuclear weapons.” In contrast, the foreign ministers referenced nuclear disarmament repeatedly in an April 2016 declaration in Hiroshima, Japan, acknowledging the suffering of the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and committing the G-7 to be “persistent and active advocates of continued reductions in nuclear weapons globally.” Their endorsement of the CTBT was also weaker this year, noting the CTBT’s “potential contribution” to nuclear disarmament and encouraging states to complete the treaty-related International Monitoring System. In 2016, they urged that all states sign and ratify the CTBT “without delay and without conditions to achieve early entry into force of the treaty.”

Posted: May 1, 2017

South Korea Tests Longer-Range Missile

South Korea Tests Longer-Range Missile

May 2017
By Kelsey Davenport

South Korea tested a new ballistic missile capable of longer ranges than its existing systems, according to officials quoted in South Korean papers. The ballistic missile, known as the Hyunmu-2C, has an estimated range of 800 kilometers, enabling South Korea to target any part of North Korea. A test launch, although not conducted at full range, was reported to have been successful. The test took place in early April at the Agency for Defense Development’s Anheung test site near Taean.

South Korea and the United States reached an agreement that allowed South Korea to extend the range of its ballistic missiles to 800 kilometers with a 500-kilogram payload in 2012. (See ACT, November 2012.) Previously, South Korea was limited under a 2001 agreement with the United States to restrict its ballistic missiles to a range of 300 kilometers with a 500-kilogram payload. The Hyunmu-2C is not the first ballistic missile that Seoul has tested under the extended-range agreement. Seoul also developed the Hyunmu-2B, which has a range of 500 kilometers. South Korean officials have said on several occasions that the Hyunmu-2C will be deployed by the end of 2017.

Posted: May 1, 2017

U.S. Shifts HEU End-Use Terms

U.S. Shifts HEU End-Use Terms

May 2017
By Alicia Sanders-Zakre

Some U.S. highly enriched uranium (HEU), originally intended to be used in France to manufacture fuel for Belgium’s BR-2 research reactor, instead will be used for commercial isotope production at the Institute for Radioelements (IRE) facility in Belgium. On April 3, the U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration’s Office of Nonproliferation and Arms Control issued a change of end-use notice for a 2010 export license covering 93.5 kilograms of HEU. The BR-2 reactor switched fuel providers last year and no longer needs all the U.S.-supplied HEU. Some experts raised concerns that the availability of excess weapons-grade uranium in Europe will slow the Belgian facility’s already gradual transition to low-enriched uranium (LEU) targets for isotope production. “One danger of exporting large amounts of HEU is that it can create overseas surpluses of U.S. HEU that may be used to undermine U.S. nonproliferation policy,” said Alan Kuperman, an associate professor at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin in an April 14 email to Arms Control Today. Kuperman urged the United States to tell the IRE facility that it will limit future HEU exports in order to encourage the facility’s complete conversion to LEU.

Posted: May 1, 2017

Nuclear Weapons Ban Talks Begin

115 non-nuclear-weapon states began discussing March 27 a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons. 

April 2017

Defying opposition by the world’s nuclear powers, 115 non-nuclear-weapon states began discussing March 27 a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons. Meeting for five days at United Nations headquarters, delegates discussed elements to be included in the treaty’s preamble and core provisions. There was general agreement to reference the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons and existing legal frameworks. They agreed on several core prohibitions, including banning the use, possession, acquisition, transfer and deployment of nuclear weapons, although other prohibitions, such as on testing, financing and the threat of use of nuclear weapons, were more controversial.

The United States and other nuclear-weapon states boycotted the historic undertaking. “There is nothing I want more than a world with no nuclear weapons. But we have to be realistic,” Nikki Haley, U.S. ambassador to the UN, said in a statement. Most U.S. treaty allies followed suit. Japanese Ambassador Nobushige Takamizawa said his country couldn’t join in the talks “in a constructive manner and in good faith.” However, the Netherlands, the only NATO member present at the opening of negotiations, agreed to participate, while emphasizing that the treaty would have to be compatible with the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT).

Treaty advocates, including Mexico, Austria, and Brazil, have expressed frustration at the lack of progress in the Conference on Disarmament and what they consider to be reluctance of nuclear-weapon states to fulfill NPT commitments on nuclear disarmament. Supporters of a ban include Pope Francis, former U.S. Defense Secretary William Perry, and many nonproliferation groups. The conference aims to adopt a treaty draft in the second round of negotiations June 15-July 7.

Posted: March 31, 2017

U.S. Reconsiders Nuclear Abolition Goal

The Nuclear Posture Review will include whether to maintain the long-standing goal of a world without nuclear weapons.

April 2017

Christopher Ford, the National Security Council’s senior director for weapons of mass destruction and counterproliferation, addresses the Carnegie International Nuclear Policy Conference on March 21. (Photo credit: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace)The Trump administration’s Nuclear Posture Review will include whether to maintain the long-standing U.S. goal of seeking a world without nuclear weapons. Christopher Ford, the National Security Council’s senior director for weapons of mass destruction and counterproliferation, said the review will consider whether that declared end state “is in fact a realistic objective” given current international security trends. The commitment is enshrined in the binding 1968 nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. The United States joined the four other nuclear-weapon states at the time in committing to seek “complete” nuclear disarmament in exchange for other countries pledging not to acquire such weapons.

Addressing the Carnegie International Nuclear Policy Conference on March 21, Ford said there is reason to question whether “traditional U.S. fidelity to that visionary end state...is still a viable strategy” due to various factors, including the prospect of further U.S.-Russian reductions seeming “less likely than it might have been a few years ago.” Past U.S. declarations, including President Barack Obama’s April 2009 Prague speech on disarmament, encouraged “largely unrealistic expectations and demands for ever faster process,” Ford said. The disappointments from unmet nuclear disarmament expectations contribute to the demands by non-nuclear-weapon states for the “fundamentally misguided” negotiations for a nuclear weapons ban treaty, which the new administration opposes as “fundamentally misguided,” he said.

 

Posted: March 31, 2017

ZTE Fined for Sanctions Evasion

Chinese telecom giant ZTE agreed to pay U.S. penalties of $1.2 billion for shipping equipment to Iran and North Korea.

Chinese telecommunications giant ZTE Corp. agreed to pay U.S. civil and criminal penalties totaling $1.2 billion for illegally shipping telecommunications equipment to Iran and North Korea, the largest fine and forfeiture penalty ever imposed in a U.S. export control case. ZTE pleaded guilty to violating U.S. export and sanctions regulations and obstructing justice with “false and misleading” statements during the investigation of its activities, the U.S. Commerce Department said in a March 7 statement. The regulations control the sale of sensitive U.S.-origin technologies.

ZTE “conspired to evade” the U.S. embargo on Iran between 2010 and 2016 in order to “supply, build, operate and/or service large scale telecommunications networks in Iran” using U.S.-origin equipment and software, the Commerce Department said. “As a result of the conspiracy, ZTE was able to obtain hundreds of millions of dollars in contracts with and sales from such Iranian entities.” ZTE also made 283 shipments of items to North Korea, including items controlled for national security purposes, such as routers, microprocessors, and servers, according to the statement. ZTE engaged in evasive conduct designed to prevent the U.S. government from detecting its violations, the Commerce Department said. 

ZTE Chairman and CEO Zhao Xianming said in a March 7 statement that the company acknowledged “the mistakes it made” and is instituting new “compliance-focused” procedures. Under the settlement, ZTE will be subject to audits and additional compliance requirements. The terms specify that $300 million of the penalty will be suspended if ZTE abides by all regulations during a seven-year probationary period. 

Posted: March 31, 2017

VX Use in Assassination “Reprehensible”

The Executive Council of the (OPCW) expressed “grave concern” March 10 about the apparent use of VX nerve agent to assassinate Kim Jong Nam.

April 2017

The Executive Council of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) expressed “grave concern” March 10 about the apparent use of VX nerve agent to assassinate Kim Jong Nam, the estranged half brother of North Korea’s dictator, at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport. The OPCW called the use of VX, as announced by the Malaysian Foreign Ministry on March 3, “reprehensible and completely contrary to the legal norms and standards of the international community,” amid speculation that dictator Kim Jong Un was behind the Feb. 13 attack. Kim Jong Nam died about 20 minutes after two women, one Indonesian and the other Vietnamese, applied VX on his face, according to Malaysian authorities, who said the women had been recruited by a team of North Koreans. The OPCW offered to provide technical assistance to Malaysia’s investigation. Ri Tong Il, a senior North Korean diplomat who flew to Kuala Lumpur to collect the body, attributed the death to a possible heart attack due to a history of diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure. Malaysian officials said they would delay the transfer of the remains temporarily while awaiting word from immediate family living in Macau and China.

 

Posted: March 31, 2017

IAEA Chief Gets Third Term

The 35-nation Board of Governors for the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reappointed Yukiya Amano to serve a third term as director-general of the UN nuclear watchdog agency.

April 2017 

IAEA Director-General Yukiya Amano delivers remarks after re-appointment at the IAEA Board of Governors meeting March 8 in Vienna. (Photo credit: Dean Calma/IAEA)The 35-nation Board of Governors for the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reappointed Yukiya Amano to serve a third term as director-general of the UN nuclear watchdog agency. Amano, who was unchallenged for the post, was approved by consensus for another four-year term, and the board’s action is expected to be formally confirmed at a meeting of the agency’s 168 member-states in September. A former Japanese diplomat, Amano, 69, has headed the IAEA since December 2009, when he succeeded the more controversial Mohamed ElBaradei. Following the board’s action on March 8, Amano said the agency will build on its range of technical responsibilities involving the peaceful use of nuclear technology and “will continue to carefully monitor and verify Iran’s implementation of its nuclear-related commitments.”

Posted: March 31, 2017

Senators Fight Cruise Missile Funding

Nine Democratic senators are seeking to limit development funding for a nuclear-armed, air-launched cruise missile known as the long-range standoff (LRSO) weapon.

April 2017

Nine Democratic senators, led by Edward Markey (Mass.), are seeking to limit development funding for a nuclear-armed, air-launched cruise missile known as the long-range standoff (LRSO) weapon that the Air Force is planning to field by 2030. The missile and its refurbished warhead reportedly will cost $20-30 billion over 20 years to produce, Markey said in a March 8 news release. “Congress shouldn’t fund dangerous new nuclear weapons designed to fight unwinnable nuclear wars,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), a co-sponsor of the legislation that would cap funding for the missile and its warhead at 2017 levels until the Trump administration submits a Nuclear Posture Review report to Congress. Air Force plans call for the procurement of about 1,000 of these missiles to replace the AGM-86B cruise missiles, which have been in use since 1986. Critics say the new weapon is not needed and its ability to carry nuclear or conventional warheads could lead to a cataclysmic error if an adversary mistakes the launch of conventional missiles for nuclear ones. “The new nuclear cruise missile is expensive, redundant, and above all, dangerous,’” warned Tom Collina, director of policy at the Ploughshares Fund on March 8.

Posted: March 31, 2017

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