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I salute the Arms Control Association … for its keen vision of the goals ahead and for its many efforts to identify and to promote practical measures that are so vitally needed to achieve them. -

– Amb. Nobuyasu Abe
Former UN Undersecretary General for Disarmament Affairs
January 28, 2004
September 2006
Edition Date: 
Friday, September 1, 2006
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Venezuela, Russia Sign Weapons Deal

Jeremy Wolland

Defying the United States, Russia agreed in July to sell $1 billion in combat aircraft to Venezuela. The deal marks the latest in a series of Russian arms sales to a state that has increasingly clashed with Washington over different ideological approaches to Latin America and the developing world.

Capping Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s July 25-27 visit to Russia, the deal’s announcement comes just two months after Washington said it would no longer permit new U.S.-origin arms sales to the South American state. At that time, U.S. officials said they were disturbed by Venezuelan ties to Iran and Cuba, allegations that Venezuela was serving as a transit point for arms and individuals of concern, and the Chavez government’s links to left-wing Colombian guerrilla groups. (See ACT, June 2006.) By contrast, Moscow has been a willing arms supplier to Venezuela, concluding more than $3 billion in weapons deals, including the most recent agreement, over the past 18 months.

The latest deal will send 24 Russian-made Sukhoi Su-30 MK2 fighter jets and 53 military helicopters to Venezuela. Chavez also announced that Moscow has agreed to build a Kalashnikov rifle factory in Venezuela. Under a prior deal between the two countries, 100,000 Kalashnikov AK-103 rifles are supposed to arrive in Venezuela this year. (See ACT, May 2005.)

The Bush administration has questioned both the necessity and motives for Venezuela’s increasing expenditures and new arms buys. Department of State spokesperson Tom Casey told reporters July 25 that “the arms purchase planned by Venezuela exceeded its defensive needs and are not helpful in terms of regional stability.” He further urged Russia to “reconsider the sale.”

Russian officials defended their deals with Venezuela, saying that they do not break international law. At a press conference July 27 with Chavez, Russian President Vladimir Putin attempted to defuse tensions with the United States by asserting that “cooperation between Russia and Venezuela is not directed against any third country.”

Chavez claims that the military purchases are necessary for Venezuela’s self-defense, commenting July 26 that “it is a state responsibility to equip and train the nation’s military bodies. In my case, that is what I am doing, nothing more.”

In an interview the same day with Colombian radio station Radio Caracol, Venezuelan Vice President Jose Vicente Rangel echoed Chavez. “ Venezuela’s purpose [behind its arms buys] is to guarantee the country’s defense and not to attack other countries,” Rangel stated.

In the past, Venezuela purchased U.S. arms, including a 1982 acquisition of 24 F-16A combat jets, but new sales and the supply of spare parts have declined over the course of Chavez’s rule. Venezuelan officials say that this trend has left their military in need of new and replacement weapons and military equipment.

U.S. politicians have questioned how Venezuela intends to use any new arms imports. Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.), chairman of the House International Relations Subcommittee on International Terrorism and Nonproliferation, said at a July 13 hearing that “it is the fear of many that these weapons, or the weapons they replace, will end up arming left-wing terrorist groups.”

 

Obstacles Remain for U.S.-Indian Deal

Wade Boese

The House in July gave its preliminary stamp of approval to the United States forging a broader civil nuclear trade relationship with India, but the arrangement remains far from finished. India is upset about measures that U.S. lawmakers have attached to the deal, and U.S. and Indian negotiators are at a standoff on some key aspects.

On July 26, the House passed, by a vote of 359-68, legislation setting conditions for the future consideration and approval of a U.S.-Indian civilian nuclear cooperation agreement, which is still being negotiated. The Senate is expected to act on similar legislation in September, and then the two chambers must merge their separate bills.

New Delhi is unhappy with the contents of both the House bill and one passed in June by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “It is clear that if the final product is in its current form, India will have grave difficulties in accepting the bills,” Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told Indian legislators Aug. 17. The Bush administration is pressing Congress to modify some of its legislative provisions that India finds nettlesome.

The overarching problem with the bills, Singh and some Indian lawmakers and scientists insist, is that their contents depart from the outlines of the deal agreed to by President George W. Bush in July 2005 and March 2006. (See ACT, September 2005; ACT, April 2006.) They charge that the U.S. side is backsliding on its commitment to “full” civil nuclear trade and impinging on India’s nuclear weapons program and national sovereignty.

In exchange for Bush’s commitment to clear U.S. and international restrictions on nuclear trade with India, New Delhi pledged to separate its nuclear enterprise into civilian and military sectors. Under a March split announced by the Singh government, 14 currently operating and planned thermal nuclear reactors were designated civilian, thereby subject to international oversight and eligible for foreign nuclear imports. Eight thermal reactors, two breeder reactors, and three research reactors were put out of bounds to outside inspection and trade.

Honing the Deal

The administration is backing India’s opposition to a Senate Foreign Relations Committee provision that would prohibit exports of uranium-enrichment, plutonium reprocessing, and heavy-water technologies to India unless destined for facilities involved in approved bilateral or multilateral projects. These technologies can be used in civil nuclear programs, but they have direct applications to making nuclear weapons. India contends that full cooperation includes these technologies. Although U.S. policy is to deny such transfers to any country and administration officials have told Congress such items will not be exported to India, New Delhi is protesting the possibility of a statutory prohibition.

At an Aug. 2 Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing, National Security Council official John Rood, who has been nominated to serve as assistant secretary of state for international security and nonproliferation, testified that “we would prefer to maintain this practice as a matter of policy as opposed to a matter of law.”

The Bush administration is also objecting to a Senate provision mandating new end-use monitoring measures to ensure that U.S. nuclear exports to India are not diverted to unintended destinations or uses. Claiming that the administration would prefer to rely on existing mechanisms instead of instituting special ones for India, Rood argued that India “sees the creation of the end-use verification procedures as implying a lack of trust.”

Some in Congress say that is exactly the point. “ India is no stranger to violating international nuclear commitments,” Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.) argued July 26. In 1974, India conducted its first nuclear test with the help of Canadian and U.S. nuclear imports designated for peaceful purposes.

Singh criticized any measures to assess or judge Indian nuclear behavior. “We oppose any legislative provisions that mandate scrutiny of either our nuclear weapons program or our unsafeguarded nuclear facilities,” the prime minister stated.

In its bill, the House included an annual reporting requirement proposed by Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.) intended to gauge whether India increases its production of fissile materials, highly enriched uranium and plutonium, for military purposes. Many lawmakers have expressed concern that Indian imports of foreign nuclear fuel could free up the limited Indian uranium stockpile to produce more nuclear weapons.

The United States is legally bound by the 1968 nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty “not in any way to assist” a nuclear weapons program of a non-nuclear-weapon state, which India is considered to be under the treaty. To remove ambiguity about whether U.S. nuclear imports might contribute to India’s weapons program, some House members supported conditioning future trade on India capping or ending its fissile material production for weapons. By votes of 268-155 and 241-184, the House defeated amendments with this purpose July 26.

Still, lawmakers collectively argued that India should not increase its fissile material production for weapons after initiation of U.S.-Indian civil nuclear trade. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee in a July 20 report stated it hoped India would not “significantly” increase fissile material production because “then the committee might well question whether civil nuclear commerce with India had become inimical to regional security and U.S. national security.”

Several legislators assert the damage is already done. “History will say that with this agreement the world lost the last bit of an international tool to control the spread of nuclear weapons,” Rep. Rush Holt (D-N.J.) declared July 26.

The two bills also mandate annual reporting on all U.S. exports to India during the previous year, as well as Indian adherence to or progress toward several nonproliferation agreements and practices. Singh said these reporting requirements were “not acceptable” because the “effect of such certification will be to diminish a permanent waiver authority into an annual one.”

If the United States ceased cooperation with India because of any violation of the agreement on New Delhi’s part, the House bill obliges Washington to try and prevent other foreign suppliers from filling the void. Similarly, the July 20 Senate Foreign Relations Committee report stated, “The committee is particularly concerned that the United States not facilitate or encourage the continuation of nuclear exports to India if U.S. exports were to be terminated.” Singh, however, made repeated references in his parliamentary address to the U.S. commitment in a March 2006 joint statement to ensure India with an uninterrupted supply of nuclear fuel and to join with India and other countries to restore fuel supplies if a disruption ever occurred.

Both congressional bills aim to keep the United States and other nuclear suppliers in sync on nuclear exports to India. They would tie the commencement of expanded U.S. nuclear exports to India to the voluntary Nuclear Suppliers Group first reaching consensus on exempting New Delhi from existing trade restrictions. France, Russia, and the United Kingdom back the U.S.-India initiative, but other members of the 45-nation regime remain undecided or critical of the deal. (See ACT, July/August 2006.)

U.S. and IAEA Negotiations With India

A key sticking point in U.S.-Indian negotiations on the cooperation agreement pertains to the conditions triggering its termination. Washington is seeking inclusion of a clause specifying that if India conducts a nuclear test, the agreement would be abrogated.

Singh said such a provision is “not acceptable.” Indeed, nuclear testing is a hot-button issue across the Indian political spectrum. Murli Manohar Joshi of the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party said June 29 that his party’s view is that the no-testing commitment renders India’s nuclear arsenal “frozen permanently at a very low level of technology and at permanent parity with Pakistan.”

The testing issue is one of about a half-dozen that need to be worked out by U.S. and Indian negotiators. The two sides met for the first time in June and are expected to meet again in September to discuss a revised draft of the cooperation agreement the United States provided Aug. 8 to India.

Negotiators have agreed to resolve separately the process by which India might be permitted to reprocess U.S.-origin material. India had wanted the agreement to include pre-approval for such reprocessing, a benefit that the United States has only extended to Japan and the European consortium EURATOM. But the U.S. delegation said that these were special cases and would not be replicated.

Estimates of when the negotiations may conclude vary greatly, but the agreement cannot be finalized until after India completes safeguards negotiations with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The U.S.-Indian agreement must contain a reference to the date and signature of the Indian-IAEA arrangement, which would specify measures for detecting any diversion of technologies or materials from India’s civil nuclear sector to its military program.

An IAEA delegation visited India July 7-8 to discuss technical safeguard issues, but actual negotiations between India and the agency have yet to commence. IAEA spokesperson Marc Vidricaire described the July visit to Arms Control Today Aug. 22 as a “very preliminary meeting.” He further noted that India has not yet approached the agency about beginning actual negotiations and no additional meetings have been scheduled.

Currently, India can only subscribe to one type of safeguards, INFCIRC/66. India says it wants “India-specific” safeguards but has not publicly explained what that term means. If the agency and New Delhi reach agreement on a novel set of safeguards, they would need to be approved by the IAEA’s Board of Governors.

The duration of the safeguards is a matter of disagreement. India agreed to accept safeguards in perpetuity, but Singh said the offer of “safeguards in perpetuity is conditional upon these facilities securing fuel from international sources for their lifetime.”

U.S. lawmakers have expressed concern about this interpretation. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee stated that Indian government statements suggesting it would take “corrective measures” in case foreign nuclear fuel supplies are halted is “troublesome because it suggests a more voluntary approach to safeguarding India’s reactors than has been asserted.”

National Sovereignty

Singh has come under fire domestically from rival politicians and the nuclear complex for allegedly compromising Indian autonomy in pursuing the civil nuclear cooperation deal. He has recoiled at the charge, contending that negotiations on the deal “have not led to any change in the basic orientation of our policies or affected our independent judgment.”

This independence has been disconcerting to members of Congress concerned about India’s export behavior and its relationship with Iran. Although short of the required majority, 192 representatives supported an amendment July 26 to add a condition to the House bill requiring the president to make a determination that India is “fully and actively participating” in efforts to deny Iran a nuclear weapons capability.

On Aug. 4, the Bush administration publicly announced sanctions on two Indian entities for transferring chemicals to Iran. The sanctions determination had been made July 25, a day before the House passed its India bill.

In an Aug. 4 statement, Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.), who sponsored the failed Iran amendment, said he was “appalled that the Bush administration…withheld this information from Congress” until after the vote. Department of State spokesperson Sean McCormack defended the administration Aug. 7, claiming, “I’m not aware of any attempt to deliberately withhold information from Congress.”

For its part, India contended the sanctions were unwarranted. A Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson asserted Aug. 7 the transfers were “not in violation of our regulations or our international obligations.”

Meanwhile, Singh’s government also conducted India’s first flight test July 9 of the Agni-3 ballistic missile, which has an estimated range of 3,000-5,000 kilometers. Although the test failed because the two-stage nuclear-capable missile did not separate properly, many interpreted the test as a show of independence because significant speculation existed that India had been postponing the experiment to avoid upsetting Washington.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Peter Pace had played down the notion June 5 that the United States was pressuring India not to test. “ India will decide what India wants to do about testing missiles,” Pace told reporters in New Delhi.

Afterward, White House Press Secretary Tony Snow refuted any comparison between the Indian test and those conducted by North Korea several days earlier. Snow said July 10 that India’s launch was carried out in a “transparent and nonthreatening way” and was not a “provocation.”

 

UK Offers Libya Security Assurances

Michael Nguyen

The United Kingdom has agreed to offer Libya security assurances and strengthen their mutual security relationship in an effort to encourage other countries to follow Libya’s lead in abandoning its chemical and nuclear weapons programs.

On June 26 in Tripoli, British Junior Foreign Minister Kim Howells signed a “Joint Letter of Peace and Security” with his counterpart, Libyan Secretary for European Affairs Abdullati Obidi. The letter pledges that the United Kingdom will seek UN Security Council action if another state attacks Libya with chemical or biological weapons. The United Kingdom also pledged to aid Libya in strengthening its defense capabilities, and both states pledged to work jointly to combat the proliferation of “weapons of mass destruction” (WMD).

“I believe that this mutual commitment will serve as an example to other states that there is a route back into the international community and the advantages of Libya’s WMD decision,” Howells said. In December 2003, Libya announced that it would abandon its chemical and nuclear weapons programs. Although it had successfully developed a small chemical weapons stockpile, it had not made much progress on its nuclear weapons program. (See ACT, March 2004.)

Diplomatic relations between the two states were severed by the United Kingdom in 1984 following the murder of a British policewoman outside the Libyan embassy in London and worsened after the 1988 bombing of a U.S. airliner over Lockerbie, Scotland. After Libya agreed to accept “general responsibility” for the 1984 murder, the United Kingdom restored diplomatic relations in 1999.

The United States, which had worked closely with the United Kingdom to convince Libya to abandon its weapons programs, does not have plans to enter a similar agreement. A U.S. official told Arms Control Today Aug. 23 that although the agreement would be closely studied, it was premature to consider any arrangement that would involve the United States directly. However, the United States restored full diplomatic relations with Tripoli in May and removed Libya from its list of states that sponsor terrorism. (See ACT, June 2006.) In addition, the United States has been studying the possibility of providing financial and technical assistance to Libya to help meet the country’s obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention to destroy its small stockpile of chemical weapons and precursor chemicals. (See ACT, May 2006.)

 

The United Kingdom has agreed to offer Libya security assurances and strengthen their mutual security relationship in an effort to encourage other countries to follow Libya’s lead in abandoning its chemical and nuclear weapons programs. (Continue)

UN Small Arms Conference Deadlocks

Miles E. Taylor

A two-week UN conference in New York aimed at cracking down on the worldwide illicit trade of small arms ended July 7 without a final agreement on measures to reduce the spread of the weapons. Delegates also failed to create a road map for future action.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan expressed disappointment July 10 in the conference’s inability to make headway on the issue, citing the urgent need to control illegal small arms and light weapons, which the independent Small Arms Survey in Geneva estimates account for one-fourth of the global gun trade and kill tens of thousands of people each year.

The conference was tasked with strengthening and updating an agreement produced when UN members met for the first global conference on the illicit international trade of small arms and light weapons in 2001. That agreement, the Program of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects, outlined a series of voluntary measures to curb the danger posed by the illegal trade of such weapons, which range from grenades, pistols, and rifles to machine guns and man-portable air defense systems, or MANPADS. (See ACT, September 2001.)

However, differences over proposed measures to beef up the Program of Action proved to be too great. Countries that blocked moves to agree on global controls included China, Cuba, India, Iran, Israel, Pakistan, and Russia.

But the earliest and perhaps some of the strongest objections came from the United States.

In a July 28 speech at the outset of the conference, Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Robert Joseph, speaking for the U.S. delegation, stated that U.S. representatives would not support an agreement that, among other things, made any reference to ammunition, civilian possession of small arms, or weapons transfers to nonstate actors.

These demands put the United States at odds with dozens of delegations that wanted to expand the scope of the 2001 agreement.

Rwanda, for example, urged conference delegates to limit or ban small arms transfers to nonstate actors, a move that many insisted would keep illicit weapons out of the hands of insurgents, terrorists, and drug traffickers. However, the United States argued that such a blanket ban could unintentionally harm groups trying to rise up against oppressive regimes.

Richard Kidd, who led the U.S. delegation and currently heads the Department of State’s Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement, told Arms Control Today Aug. 11 that the discussion about nonstate actors “was one of the most dysfunctional debates of the entire process.”

Kidd insisted that if countries would simply enact and enforce the measures called for in the 2001 Program of Action, rather than trying to add new provisions, illicit weapons would not wind up in the wrong hands in the first place.

Instead, Kidd asserted, many countries came to the conference seeking to debate issues where there had historically been disagreement. “A large number of states find it a lot easier to talk than to do,” Kidd stated.

He said the United States sought to bolster countries’ enforcement mechanisms and end-user procedures, which are designed to ensure that exports go to legitimate recipients. He also said Washington favored doing more on cooperation assistance because many governments lack resources to implement the Program of Action. But, Kidd added, “there was a significant disconnect [at the conference] between policy posturing and practical, focused implementation.”

Others countries, though, maintained that the biggest holdup at the gathering was a U.S. refusal to agree to follow-up measures, such as setting a date for another review conference or creating a framework for future action on small arms. It was the only country to oppose such steps.

In a July 27 interview with Arms Control Today, Sri Lankan Ambassador Prasad Kariyawasam, the president of the review conference, agreed that this was a problem. “ U.S. views on the follow-up hurt the conference because I do not think that the overwhelming majority was ready to accept [their position],” he explained.

The conference faced political pressure before it even began. In the days leading up to the meeting, members of the National Rifle Association flooded the United Nations with tens of thousands of letters arguing that the conference was going to take away their gun rights.

The outcry forced Annan to provide clarification in his opening statement at the summit. “Let me note that this review conference is not negotiating a ‘global gun ban,’ nor do we wish to deny law-abiding citizens their right to bear arms in accordance with their national laws,” he insisted. “Our energy, our emphasis, and our anger is directed against illegal weapons, not legal ones.”

But that assurance failed to translate into an agreement. Differences between states led to the creation of a draft document that was watered down to avoid disagreement and would have done little to expand the Program of Action. Because such conferences operate by consensus, all UN member states must agree on the final document before it can be approved.

Some states concluded that having no agreement seemed better than having a weak one. “I think there was a feeling that it was best to leave it like that rather than trying to agree on things that were less than what we agreed to in 2001,” Kariyawasam explained.

Although no new deal was reached, Kidd said that measures remain in place to curb weapons trafficking. “The Program of Action still exists, it’s still in effect, and if states implemented it, the problems of the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons would be significantly reduced,” he stated.

Kariyawasam said he was optimistic about future action on small arms, noting that the UN General Assembly’s First Committee, which focuses on disarmament and international security, will have a chance to give the small arms debate some direction when it meets this fall.

Until then, he insisted, the world cannot afford to lose sight of the issue. “This subject has to be on the front burner, not on the back burner,” Kariyawasam said.

 

Bush, Congress Wield Proliferation Sanctions

Miles E. Taylor

The Bush administration in July sanctioned nine companies for suspected involvement with Iran’s missile and unconventional weapons programs, and President George W. Bush Aug. 5 signed a short-term extension of an expiring 1996 sanctions law directed at Iran. At the same time, the Senate stepped up pressure on North Korea by voting to add it to a nonproliferation law that allows the president to sanction foreigners who supply weapons technology to countries of proliferation concern, such as Iran and Syria.

Of the nine sanctions announced by the administration, two were authorized by executive order, and seven were imposed under the Iran-Syria Nonproliferation Act.

Sanam Industrial Group and Ya Mahdi Industries Group, both based in Iran, were cited July 18 by the Department of the Treasury for alleged involvement in missile proliferation. That move was part of an ongoing effort by the Treasury Department to freeze the assets of organizations and individuals accused of being involved in supporting the spread of weapons of mass destruction. Twenty-five other entities were sanctioned June 2005 for financially contributing to or supporting proliferation activities. (See ACT, September 2005.)

The Iranian companies were said to be involved with the Aerospace Industries Organization (AIO), a subsidiary of the Iranian Ministry of Defense & Armed Forces Logistics. Last year, in issuing the executive order, Bush deemed the AIO a proliferation concern for its role in managing and coordinating Iran’s missile program.

The Treasury Department will now be able to freeze any financial assets being held in the United States by the designated companies and will prohibit U.S. businesses and individuals from working with them.

“As long as Iran’s nuclear ambitions continue to threaten the international community, the United States will use its authorities to target Iran’s efforts to sell and acquire items used to develop weapons of mass destruction and the missiles capable of carrying them,” Stuart Levey, the Treasury Department’s undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, said in a July 18 statement.

Effective July 28, the Department of State sanctioned seven additional firms under a separate measure, the Iran-Syria Nonproliferation Act, for assisting Iran with its weapons programs. The move, which included penalties against two Indian companies, was announced shortly after the House voted July 26 to support a nuclear cooperation agreement with India.

The Indian companies, Prachi Poly Products Ltd. and Balaji Amines Ltd., are chemical manufacturers.

Also listed in the injunction are two Russian companies, the state-owned arms trading company Rosoboronexport and aircraft maker Sukhoi; two North Korean companies, Korean Mining and Industrial Development Corp. and Korea Pugang Trading Corp.; and one Cuban organization, the Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology.

The sanctions will be in place for two years and will forbid U.S. government agencies from assisting or buying goods from the companies. The penalties will also block the sale of some military equipment, services, and technologies to the organizations and their subsidiaries.

The seven companies are the latest in a string of dozens of entities that have been punished for their assistance to Iran’s weapons programs under the Iran-Syria Nonproliferation Act. The Senate voted July 25 to expand that law to include North Korea, following a series of missile tests by Pyongyang earlier in the month.

If passed by both houses of Congress, the revised law would allow the president to sanction foreigners who transfer goods and technologies to North Korea that contribute to their ability to produce missile and nuclear weapons.

“ North Korea’s recent missile launches illustrate the threat this regime poses to the American people, the people of the region, and peace and stability in East Asia,” bill sponsor Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) said in a July 25 statement.

Congress also took action on other sanctions measures.

With the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act set to expire Aug. 5, lawmakers agreed on a short-term extension until Sept. 29 so they could try to reach agreement on a new measure after the August congressional recess. The 1996 law calls for sanctions on foreign entities that invest in Iran’s and Libya’s energy sectors, a policy that lawmakers largely hope to maintain in a bid to curb Iran’s nuclear program.

In April, the House passed a measure intended to tighten those sanctions on Iran, but the Senate narrowly defeated a similar measure in June after the Bush administration said it would harm relations with countries, including U.S. allies, needed as part of its diplomatic strategy to counter Tehran. (See ACT, July/August 2006.)

 

Russia Seeks New Nuclear Accord

Wade Boese

With a landmark U.S.-Russian strategic arms treaty nearing expiration, Russian President Vladimir Putin wants to revive a listless strategic arms dialogue with Washington. The Bush administration, however, has indicated repeatedly it is not interested in another strategic nuclear reductions accord.

Addressing Russian diplomats June 27, Putin complained about “the stagnation we see today in the area of disarmament.” He contended Russia was not to blame for the current status quo and was ready to move forward on disarmament issues. “Above all, we propose to our American partners that we launch negotiations to replace the [Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty] START,” he stated.

Signed in 1991, START I obliged Moscow and Washington to cut their deployed strategic nuclear forces of approximately 10,000 warheads apiece down to 6,000 each. Both capitals enacted their cuts by 2001, and the treaty is scheduled to expire Dec. 5, 2009. START II, negotiated in 1993, languished for years without entering into force. Finally, Moscow repudiated the accord a day after the June 13, 2002, U.S. withdrawal from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty banning nationwide strategic missile defense systems. (See ACT, July/August 2002.)

Although the START I reductions have been completed, the treaty’s verification regime is still being relied on to assess the two countries’ progress toward meeting their May 2002 Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT) commitments. Instead of negotiating specific SORT verification measures, the two governments stated in a joint declaration that START I “will provide the foundation for providing confidence, transparency, and predictability in further strategic offensive reductions.”

Then-national security adviser Condoleezza Rice noted in a May 13, 2002, PBS interview that START I verification measures would provide “confidence that [SORT] reductions are actually being made.” The Department of State’s verification bureau has judged that SORT is not effectively verifiable without these measures. (See ACT, April 2005.)

But START I expires three years before Moscow and Washington must meet the SORT limit of 1,700-2,200 operationally deployed strategic warheads apiece. The United States currently fields around 5,400 strategic warheads, while Russia deploys about 1,000 less.

Bush administration officials have said repeatedly that they trust Russia to fulfill its reduction commitments. In an annual report on SORT implementation, the State Department predicted in May 2005 that there will be “increasing openness over the lifetime” of the treaty.

Yet, a U.S.-Russian working group created in connection to SORT to explore strategic offensive transparency issues last met in January 2005. Established under the May 2002 Consultative Group for Strategic Security, the group has been “replaced with a new forum,” Pentagon spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Karen Finn told Arms Control Today Aug. 23. She provided no explanation for why the group stopped meeting or why it was replaced.

Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Robert Joseph revealed in a May 18 interview with Arms Control Today that the United States and Russia were creating a new working group to look at issues related to the expiration of START I. Joseph is leading the group’s U.S. team while Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Kislyak heads Russia’s delegation.

No details about the substance and status of the talks have been released. The State Department provided Arms Control Today an Aug. 9 statement simply noting that “[t]he U.S. and Russia have each begun to address the larger question of how to conduct a dialogue on strategic issues, including reviewing the question of what arrangements could replace the START Treaty.”

For the past several years, Russia has advocated an agreement reducing U.S. and Russian strategic warheads to 1,500 warheads or fewer. Although Moscow is moving ahead on introducing two new ballistic missiles to its inventory—the mobile, land-based SS-27 Topol-M ICBM and the Bulava submarine-launched ballistic missile—the size of the Russian strategic force is projected to continue shrinking below the SORT bottom limit because of costs associated with replacing older weapons. The Kremlin wants to bind Washington legally to go in the same downward direction.

But Bush administration officials have repeatedly said they are satisfied with SORT and not interested in negotiating further reductions. Most recently, Joseph in his May Arms Control Today interview said, “It is our view that we ought to focus on other threats.”

Moscow would clearly like to win U.S. agreement to lower strategic force levels, but Putin has dismissed the notion of trying to match the United States in arms numbers if Washington refuses. “We should not burn money uselessly,” Putin told Russian legislators May 10. Russia’s responses, he stated, “will be asymmetric [and] less costly, but they will undoubtedly make our nuclear triad more reliable and effective.”

 

Rocca to Push Controversial Draft Treaty

Sonia Luthra

The Senate Aug. 3 confirmed Christina Rocca as the new U.S. permanent representative to the 65-nation Conference on Disarmament (CD) in Geneva. Rocca, a former assistant secretary of state for South Asian affairs, will begin the position as the Bush administration is pushing the forum to negotiate the controversial U.S. version of a treaty ending the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons.

Washington has been without a permanent representative to the CD since Ambassador Jackie Sanders left in February. Sanders is now the alternative representative to the United Nations for special political affairs, working closely with John Bolton, the U.S. permanent representative to the UN.

The stalemated CD, which operates by consensus, has not concluded an agreement since the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. The Bush administration is frustrated by the conference’s lack of movement on U.S. priorities and asserts that this year could be crucial to determining future U.S. participation in the negotiating body. Specifically, the administration is seeking negotiations on a fissile material cutoff treaty (FMCT).

An FMCT, which has lingered on the CD horizon since 1995, would ban production of highly enriched uranium and plutonium for nuclear weapons. The United States submitted an FMCT draft text May 18 as a starting point for negotiations. (See ACT, June 2006.)

The U.S. draft is controversial because it does not include a verification mechanism, in contrast to previous calls by the Clinton administration and other countries for such provisions. (See ACT, June 2006.) The Bush administration claims that a verification mechanism would be too extensive and intrusive for key signatories, yet unable to protect against cheating. (See ACT, September 2004.) Other nuclear-weapon states disagree. For example, France continues to show support for the 1995 Shannon mandate calling for a verifiable treaty, although it has said that it does not want to set preconditions on beginning negotiations, a stance echoed by the United Kingdom. India, which has nuclear weapons but is not a nuclear-weapon state under the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, similarly says that an FMCT needs to be “verifiable and nondiscriminatory.”

Although all conference members claim to support at least some kind of FMCT, some insist that the CD not focus solely on such a treaty. Instead, a group led by China and Russia would also like the conference simultaneously to hold talks on the prevention of an arms race in outer space.

Motivated in part by U.S. missile defense plans, such as space-based missile interceptors (see ACT, May 2005), proponents of an outer space agreement want to bar the installation of any type of weapons system in space. The 1967 Outer Space Treaty outlaws the deployment of unconventional weapons in space.

The United States opposes any CD talks on outer space and has rejected formulas that tie the start of FMCT negotiations to work on other issues, including space and nuclear disarmament. John Mohanco, deputy director of the Department of State’s Office of Multilateral Nuclear and Security Affairs, stated at a June 13 CD meeting that “there is no, repeat no, problem in outer space for arms control to solve.”

Russia and China have both stated throughout the 2006 session that they would like a “balanced” program of work at the CD. This formulation is an explicit rejection of the U.S. wish to focus solely on an FMCT. China has been adamant about this, stating at the CD June 8 that “any idea that aims at circumventing the ‘program of work’ and initiating negotiation solely on one issue while refraining from substantive work on other issues will not fly.”

CD delegations will have until September 15 to try to break the deadlock. The conference concludes its working session then and will not reconvene again until early next year.

 

ReSTART: The Need for a New U.S.-Russian Strategic Arms Agreement

Anatoli Diakov and Eugene Miasnikov

On June 27, Russian President Vladimir Putin proposed to begin talks with the United States on replacing the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), set to expire in 2009.[1] Calling for a “renewed dialogue on the main disarmament issues,” Putin did not provide any specifics on the kind of agreement he was seeking; nor was there any direct response from Washington, although U.S. officials say they plan to work with Russia on the issue.

Therefore, it seems valuable to look at whether it might make sense to replace START and what role such an agreement could play in the arms control context of the 21st century.

U.S. and Russian officials must first decide if they should replace START, extend it, or allow it to expire. They will have to take into account significant changes in the strategic landscape, particularly the implementation of the 2002 Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT), which will be in force until 2012. That treaty went beyond START in calling for deeper cuts. But it does not include a verification mechanism or arrangements for the destruction of launchers or delivery vehicles. Instead, its only verification provisions are those of START.[2]

Putin’s call should be supported by the United States. By maintaining transparency in strategic areas, a new or extended START would increase both countries’ confidence in their broader relationship, which continues to be tested.[3] It would also demonstrate the two nuclear superpowers’ commitment to Article VI of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, which calls for nuclear-weapon states to take steps toward nuclear disarmament, thus strengthening the nonproliferation regime. Still, squaring the quite diverse political and diplomatic goals of the United States and Russia in any negotiations could prove exceedingly difficult.

Behind Putin’s Call for Talks

Putin’s June 27 proposal came soon after he revealed his disappointment to the Russian parliament that disarmament issues had vanished from the international agenda. Although in his annual address in May, he had said it was “too early to speak of an end to the arms race.”

That dialogue has languished after conclusion of SORT. Russia had hoped that talks in two bodies established the same day that SORT was signed—the Consultative Group on Strategic Stability (CGSS) and the Bilateral Implementation Commission—would work out existing disagreements on strategic arms issues.

These hopes have not yet been realized. Indeed, the offensive transparency working groups under the CGSS stopped meeting after January 2005.

Russia is also concerned that if START were to lapse, some limitations on the development of new types of strategic arms, including some space weapons, would disappear as well.

The Bush administration has appeared reluctant to engage in such discussions, viewing U.S.-Russian strategic arms control as passé after the end of the Cold War. U.S. officials argued that such pacts were designed to manage relations between adversaries, and recent years had seen the emergence of a new U.S.-Russian partnership. Indeed, only a push from Congress and the Kremlin forced the White House to reluctantly accede to the three-page SORT.

Yet, there have been some recent signs that the Bush administration’s attitude toward strategic talks may be changing. In a May 2006 interview with Arms Control Today, STRATCOM Commander General James Cartwright spoke strongly in favor of transforming or extending the START verification regime.[4] The same month, Robert Joseph, undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, told Arms Control Today that he and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Kisylak had formed a group to look at the issue of START’s expiration.[5] Later, Kislyak himself not only confirmed this fact but also hinted at a June 2006 press conference that there are hopes for progress in negotiations. At the July 2006 Group of Eight meeting in St. Petersburg, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told reporters that President George W. Bush and Putin had asked their bureaucracies to review the implementation of START. A Putin aide said that the U.S. and Russian presidents “briefly discussed and outlined what needs to be done” in relation to START.

Since SORT lacks appropriate verification provisions it is clear that in order to retain the existing level of transparency of their strategic forces, the United States and Russia have to replace START or simply extend the current treaty. Given the Bush administration’s allergy to new arms control agreements, the easiest alternative by far would be to extend START for five more years. This option is especially attractive because it does not require long negotiations and subsequent ratification by the parties. Article XVII of START allows states-parties Belarus, Kazakhstan, Russia, Ukraine, and the United States[6] to gather and consider the problem of START’s future no later than a year before it ends, or December 2008. However, there are problems that may become insurmountable obstacles to a simple START extension.

U.S. and Russian Strategic Modernization

U.S. and Russian efforts to modernize their strategic offensive forces pose one set of problems.

The 2001 U.S. Nuclear Posture Review placed a strong priority on converting excess U.S. strategic delivery systems for use as conventional-weapon carriers. Some of these plans will likely collide with START constraints.

The Department of Defense has requested funding from Congress to deploy conventional ballistic missiles at sea, using precision warheads delivered from Trident nuclear submarines.[7] Another option being considered is development of a submarine-launched intermediate-range ballistic missile (SLIRBM), which could be deployed on submarines and surface ships. Because the SLIRBM’s planned range exceeds 600 kilometers, the missile would be limited by START. The treaty prohibits deployment of such a missile on surface ships.

Also, if the Pentagon is unsuccessful in persuading a reluctant Congress to move forward with using the Trident submarines as conventional ballistic missile carriers, the administration may decide to go with a land-based alternative that could present its own challenges to START verification.[8]

For example, Air Force officials have raised the possibility of deploying retired Minuteman II and MX ICBMs with non-nuclear warheads. One of the options being considered is deploying these missiles on launch pads near the U.S. coasts instead of in silos at existing ICBM bases.[9] Potential launch pads include the Cape Canaveral space launch facility in Florida and the Vandenberg ICBM test launch site in California. These sites would be chosen to make conventional ICBM launches clearly distinguishable from nuclear ICBM launches so that third parties such as Russia or China would not think there was a nuclear attack directed at them. The sites’ coastal locations would also make it possible to avoid dropping first and second missile stages on U.S. or Canadian land areas. According to the Air Force, several dozen conventionally armed ICBMs could be deployed within two years at a relatively low cost of $31 million.[10]

START does not prohibit the deployment of conventional warheads on ballistic missiles but includes quite strong limitations on deployment methods and sites. ICBMs must be deployed in silo, road-mobile, or rail-mobile launchers.[11] START does permit “soft-site” launch pads for ICBMs at test ranges or space-launch facilities.

But, the Vandenberg base, a declared ICBM test site, has a limited number of ICBM silos.[12] For this reason, deployment of more than 10 to 20 conventional ICBMs in Vandenberg would require building new silos or mobile launchers for missiles. Furthermore, the aggregate number of ICBMs and submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) located at test facilities is limited to 25, and the aggregate number of test launchers is limited to 20 silo and 20 mobile launchers.[13] The treaty also prohibits flight tests of ICBMs equipped with re-entry vehicles from space-launch facilities, which would seem to preclude deployment at Cape Canaveral.[14]

It is notable that U.S. interest in converting strategic delivery systems into conventional platforms already may be prompting the United States to circumvent START provisions. An example is a program to convert four Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines armed with Trident I SLBMs to “special-purpose” submarines for launching long-range cruise missiles. To minimize the cost, this conversion is being carried out without removing the ballistic-missile launchers. According to START, converted submarines are treaty accountable and subject to inspections. The United States does not argue with the need to account for special-purpose submarines under START, but it will likely try to avoid inspections, which may become one of the sticking points of START implementation in the near future.

The United States will likely do this by placing the submarines at locations that are not listed as inspectable sites, i.e., facilities that are not ballistic missile submarine bases; facilities for production, repair, storage, or loading of SLBMs; or facilities for training of SLBM crews. Instead, the submarines may have their home ports at Bremerton, Wash., and Norfolk, Va., where submarine conversion and reactor refueling are performed, or at naval bases at Guam and Diego Garcia, which are considered as potential homeports for Ohio-class special-purpose submarines.[15] It is possible that the United States may thus avoid violating the legal language of START, while undermining its spirit.

A similar problem emerged in the late 1980s when START was being negotiated. The United States announced that it planned to convert two Poseidon ballistic missile submarines (SSBN-645 “James K. Polk” and SSBN-642 “Kamehameha”) into special-purpose submarines without eliminating their ballistic missile launchers or missile compartments. In order to exempt these submarines from START inspections, the parties worked out the Thirty-Third Agreed Statement of START, which imposed a set of restrictions on special-purpose submarines.[16]

Moscow suggested that the parties to START work out a similar agreed statement with regard to these Trident-converted ballistic missile submarines, but the United States has not yet responded. Likewise, Russia is increasingly concerned that the United States continues to keep its nuclear long-range sea-launched cruise missiles (SLCMs) ready for deployment. In the past, Russia made numerous failed attempts to include nuclear-armed SLCMs in strategic arms limitation treaties.

START creates obstacles for Russia’s strategic forces modernization program as well, but for other reasons. An analysis of likely future Russian strategic force development suggests that until 2015-2020 the level of deployed strategic warheads will mostly depend on SS-18 and SS-19 type ICBMs with multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicles. After these missiles are retired, the number of deployed Russian warheads will shrink drastically, making it impossible for Russia to maintain equality with the United States. Indeed, Russia’s arsenal will likely drop near the level of the “third” nuclear states: the United Kingdom, France, and China. To ameliorate this situation, Russia may decide by the end of this decade to deploy multiple warheads on its SS-27 (“Topol-M”) silo- and mobile-based ICBMs, something that is currently prohibited by START provisions. Official statements suggest that such plans are being actively discussed by Russia’s political and military leadership.[17]

Russia may also wish to deploy the new multiple-warhead Bulava submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) as a land-based ICBM as well. Deploying a land-based Bulava variant would be easier and cheaper than the proposed construction of six Yuriy Dolgorukiy-type (Borey-class) submarines [18] and the deployment of Bulava missiles on three aging Typhoon-class strategic submarines. START constraints would be an obstacle to the deployment of a mobile variant of the Bulava.[19]

If START is allowed to expire, Russia will also be able to build up the number of its deployed strategic warheads by increasing the number of warheads on its SS-N-23 SLBMs.[20] START limits this type of missile to four warheads. In the past, however, the Soviet Union developed an SS-N-23 variant carrying 10 warheads.[21]

START limitations on movements of road-mobile missile systems are also among the treaty provisions most frequently criticized in Russia. Taking advantage of these provisions, the United States has rebuked Russia in some meetings of the Joint Compliance and Inspection Commission for moving such missiles.[22]

Drawbacks of START Verification

The elaborate nature and high cost of START inspections pose another obstacle to a simple extension of the treaty. Many experts in the United States and Russia believe that the treaty needs to be updated for an era far different from when the treaty was negotiated during the Cold War. At that time, the parties knew little about each other, and the level of mutual confidence was much lower than today. Therefore, a substantial bureaucratic infrastructure was required.[23]

The treaty includes 12 types of inspection visits, as well as continuous monitoring inspection at ICBM production facilities. As table 1 indicates, the United States has conducted more inspections than Russia. U.S. teams typically make about 35-40 inspection trips annually to sites in Belarus, Kazakhstan, Russia, and Ukraine while the Soviet Union successor states conduct about 25-30 trips a year to U.S. sites. Since the beginning of inspections in December 1994 to December 2004, the United States has carried out almost 50 percent more inspections than the former Soviet states.

Former Soviet Union inspectors have been hampered by budgetary considerations. In 2002-2004 the U.S. Defense Threat Reduction Agency spent about $10-12 million on START inspections.[24] Russian expenditures were less by almost a factor of 10.[25]

The financial constraint was the most stringent after Russia’s August 1998 ruble devaluation. The following year, Russia conducted 19 inspection visits, compared to 34 by the United States. Visits by U.S. inspectors can also be financially burdensome for Russia because the inspected party bears all the transportation and living costs after the inspecting team arrives at a port of entry, even though inspected facilities may be quite distant. Disruptions of planned military activities at the sites visited by teams of inspectors are also costly.

Despite the costs, the intrusive and detailed procedures specified in the START inspection protocol do not always achieve their goals. The most striking example relates to on-site inspections of re-entry vehicles. These are intended to check on a random basis the number of warheads declared to be mounted on each missile. The inspected side has a right to place a form-fitting cover on the front section of the missile in order to hide sensitive information. Russian inspectors have raised concerns many times that the hard cover used by the U.S. Navy to cover the re-entry vehicles on Trident II ballistic missiles does not allow confident verification that the missile contains no more than the eight warheads allowed by START.[26] Similar complaints have been made by U.S. inspectors with respect to the hard cover used by Russia during re-entry-vehicle inspections of the SS-25 ICBM.[27]

Approaches to telemetry data exchange need to be modernized as well. Specifically, the parties have been unable to resolve the problem of telemetry data interpretation for some Trident II SLBM test launches. The number of re-entry vehicle deployment maneuvers carried out in these tests appears to exceed the number of re-entry vehicles attributed to this type of SLBM.[28]

Cooperative Reduction Programs

One of the reasons for diminished U.S. interest in strategic arms control negotiations is the data obtained as a result of the implementation of the U.S.-Russian Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) programs.[29] Some U.S. experts even claim that CTR programs could replace traditional arms control in providing transparency.[30] Yet, the transparency mechanisms of the CTR programs are unlikely to provide an adequate replacement for the START verification regime.

Most importantly, verifiable arms control treaties such as START provide the political foundation for the CTR assistance programs. Representing a clear commitment by both countries to cut their nuclear arsenals and provide strategic transparency, they help Russian and U.S. leaders sell such cuts to their domestic publics.

By contrast, the transparency provided by the CTR projects is one sided. Because the program is financed by the United States, Russia provides information and access to its facilities to U.S. officials in connection with CTR projects. Some have suggested that the United States provide reciprocal transparency by allowing Russian companies to compete on an equal basis for contracts to eliminate U.S. weapon systems. Yet, even if the United States allowed Russian companies to compete for elimination contracts, the scale of such Russian participation would not be comparable to that of the United States: U.S. officials are giving less priority to eliminating missiles and other such strategic delivery systems than to modernizing them or converting them to carry non-nuclear payloads.

Moreover, there would be legal problems in implementing CTR programs without START. These projects are currently carried out under the CTR umbrella agreement, formally called the U.S.-Russian Agreement Concerning the Safe and Secure Transportation, Storage and Destruction of Weapons and the Prevention of Weapons Proliferation. It was signed in 1992 and extended twice for seven-year intervals, most recently in June.[31] The CTR projects are also regulated by interdepartmental agreements between the U.S. Department of Defense and a corresponding entity in Russia (as of 2006, Russia was represented by the Roscosmos federal agency). The elimination procedures of Russian strategic weapons, however, are regulated by the START conversion or elimination protocol and verified under the START inspection protocol. Thus, the United States and Russia would have no legal basis for the elimination of Russian arms and the verification of this elimination even if the efforts continued to be financially supported under the CTR programs.

Finally, continued Russian interest in getting funding from the United States for its strategic arms elimination can no longer be taken for granted, as nearly all of these projects are likely to end or shrink significantly after 2009. The only exception is the project on elimination of solid propellant mobile SS-25 ICBMs and their launchers, which by 2009 is going to be at its halfway point at best. Spending on this effort is currently about a half of the annual budget of the CTR Strategic Offensive Arms Elimination Program, which is in the range of $50-80 million per year in fiscal year 2004 to fiscal year 2007.[32] Most likely, the required spending on SS-25 elimination after 2009 will not exceed $20-30 million, which Russia could easily afford.[33] Indeed, Russia is already becoming less dependent on Western support for eliminating its excess arms and military equipment. In 1999, when CTR support was critical, Russia allocated the equivalent of about $82.3 million for this purpose. Since that time, however, Russia has steadily increased its spending on elimination of arms and military equipment. It plans to spend more than $670 million in 2006.[34]

The Framework of a New Agreement

It seems clear that neither letting START expire nor simply extending it look like particularly good options. At the same time, modifying the existing treaty also does not appear to be wise. The treaty is too complex, and many of its provisions simply do not reflect today’s realities. A modernized START is not likely to be worth the effort required, especially as at least the United States has little appetite for long negotiations. By contrast, Putin’s proposal could provide a way for a compromise.

To be sure, a new negotiation could open the door to the long list of ambitious goals that each side has long sought and that could stall negotiations. Russia is interested in discussing strategic stability in a broad context that includes offensive and defensive strategic arms, space weapons, anti-submarine warfare, and precision-guided weapons—the whole set of perceived potential threats to its future deterrence capability. The United States, on the other hand, would like to discuss limiting tactical nuclear weapons.

In our opinion, a breakthrough is possible if these issues are skirted and if a new START resolved two problems that SORT failed to address: the U.S. desire for new nuclear warhead counting rules and Russia’s wish to limit U.S. deployment of non-nuclear offensive strategic arms and provide greater transparency to these weapons. A possible compromise would call for Russia to accept the U.S. approach to count only operationally deployed nuclear warheads. At the same time, the United States has to agree with the Russian position to consider delivery means as strategic weapons under a new START even if their nuclear warheads are replaced with conventional ones. Therefore, such conventional strategic delivery means should be covered by associated limits for deployment, as well as transparency and verification measures.

Achieving such a compromise would also allow both countries to accept lower limits on the number of operationally deployed nuclear warheads permitted under a new agreement, compared to SORT’s 1,700-2,200 warhead limits. Limiting both countries to no more than 1,500 warheads or perhaps even a lower level seems realistic. Russia has already proposed its readiness to reduce its strategic forces to the level of 1,000 warheads. The Pentagon’s willingness to convert some Trident SLBMs to conventional ballistic missiles and cut 50 of 500 deployed Minuteman III ICBMs indicates that the United States might not be averse to further cuts as well.[35] Moreover, such cuts could prove politically beneficial for both sides.

Both sides are likely interested in keeping limits on development of certain types of destabilizing strategic arms and on transfers of strategic arms to third parties. Such a treaty could retain the flexibility of SORT in avoiding limits on numbers attributed to subcategories or types of delivery systems, so that both sides can tweak their strategic arsenals. Likewise, the parties could drop some restrictions on deployment methods of conventional missiles.

Yet, the primary aim of a new agreement should be the creation of a new verification mechanism, which would replace the one in START and at the same time retain current levels of transparency. START’s data exchanges, notifications, and inspections could become a basis for a new mechanism. The two countries could decide what kind of data and types of inspections are still critically important and which are obsolete and could be canceled. The quotas for the number of inspections could also be revised in such talks. Revised inspection procedures could also be negotiated to help to resolve mutual concerns.

The United States and Russia should be interested in such an approach.

 


Anatoli Diakov is director of the Center for Arms Control, Energy and Environmental Studies at the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology and Eugene Miasnikov is a senior research scientist at the center.


ENDNOTES

1. Putin held a meeting with ambassadors and permanent representatives of the Russian Federation in Moscow at the Foreign Ministry on June 27, 2006.

2. Both the U.S. and Russian governments issued statements that they would use the existing START inspection mechanism to verify SORT. President George W. Bush mentioned in the SORT letter of transmittal to the U.S. Senate that “the Parties will use the comprehensive verification regime of the Treaty on the Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms (the “START Treaty”) to provide the foundation for confidence, transparency, and predictability in further strategic offensive reductions.” A similar answer was given by the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs: “the [SORT] Treaty contains an important clause confirming that the START-1 Treaty remains in force.… Thus, a close link is being established between the two treaties - START-1 and the new Treaty.… Thus, the thoroughly developed verification mechanism it provides for, which makes it possible to sufficiently accurately trace the state of affairs in the strategic arsenals of the sides, will be operative as well.”

3. Nikolai Zlobin, “ Russia and the U.S. —What’s Next?” Center for Defence Information, November 2, 2005; Peter Baker, “Russian Relations Under Scrutiny,” The Washington Post, February 26, 2006, p. A1.

4. Wade Boese and Miles Pomper, “Strategic Decisions: An Interview With STRATCOM Commander General James E. Cartwright,” Arms Control Today, June 2006, pp. 6-11.

5. Wade Boese and Miles Pomper, “Reshaping the U.S. Non-Proliferation Strategy: An Interview with the Undersecretary of State Robert Joseph,” Arms Control Today, June 2006, pp. 18-22.

6. START was signed July 31, 1991, by the United States and the Soviet Union. After the Soviet Union’s breakup later that year, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Russia, and Ukraine became the successors to the treaty. Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine transferred all of their nuclear weapons to Russia and eliminated their strategic platforms and infrastructure in accordance with START provisions.

7. Steve Andreasen, “Off Target? The Bush Administration’s Plan to Arm Long-Range Ballistic Missiles With Conventional Warheads,” Arms Control Today, July/August 2006.

8. Elaine Grossman, “Air Force Proposes New Strike Missile,” InsideDefense.com NewsStand, April 8, 2006.

9. Amy F. Woolf, “Conventional Warheads for Long Range Ballistic Missiles: Background and Issues for Congress,” CRS Report for Congress, RL33067, September 6, 2005.

10. Ibid.

11. START, Art. V, para. 3.

12. According to the START memorandum of understanding data as of July 1, 2005, there were 10 test silo launchers at Vandenberg base.

13. START, Art. IV, paras. 1(d), 2(d).

14. START, Art. V, para. 14.

15. Andrew Scutro, “Balance of Sub Fleet to Swing Toward the Pacific,” Navy Times, February 20, 2006. Another potential home port under consideration is Pearl Harbor. Ronald O’Rourke, “Navy Trident Submarine Conversion (SSGN) Program: Background and Issues for Congress,” CRS Report for Congress, RS21007, June 23, 2005.

16. The agreement stated that no more than two special-purpose submarines converted from Poseidon SSBNs would be exempt from inspections; the launchers of converted submarines will be counted according to START accounting rules; converted submarines cannot be permanently based at ports specified as ballistic missile submarine bases in the START memorandum of understanding; and when such a submarine is located at the port where it is permanently based, its launch tubes have to be opened on request of the Soviet side for a period of no less than 12 hours in order to allow it to verify by satellite inspection that they do not contain ballistic missiles. The Soviet Union had a right to make two requests per submarine each year.

17. Aleksandr Dolinin, “Strazh Bezopasnosti Derzhavy [The guard of power’s security],” Krasnaya Zvezda, December 16, 2005.

18. Yuri Gavrilov, “Boyegolovki Posledney Svezhesti [Warheads starting to spoil],” Rossiiskaya Gazeta, July 29, 2004; Igor Korotchenko, “Udar Iz Pod Vody [A strike from underwater],” Voyenno-Promyshlennyi Kurier, September 29, 2004.

19. START, Art. V, para. 6.

20. START, Art. V, para. 12(c b).

21. Pavel Podvig, ed., Russian Strategic Nuclear Forces ( Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2001), p. 335.

22. U.S. Department of State, “Adherence to and Compliance With Arms Control, Nonproliferation and Disarmament Agreements and Commitments,” August 2005, p. 13 (hereinafter State Department arms control adherence guide).

23. V. S. Koltunov, “Kontrolnyy Mechanism Dogovorov o Sokraschenii Nastupatelnykh Vooruzhenii [Verification mechanism of offensive arms elimination treaties]” (thesis of the lecture presented at Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology within a course “Strategic Arms and Problems of Security,” March 21, 2002); A. Arbatov and V. Dvorkin, eds. “Yadernoye Sderzhivaniye I Nerasprostraneniye [Nuclear deterrence and non-proliferation],” Moscow Carnegie Center, 2005, p. 56; Avis Bohlen, “The Rise and Fall of Arms Control,” Survival, Vol. 45, No. 3 (Autumn 2003).

24. Defense Threat Reduction Agency, “Fiscal Year (FY) 2004/ FY 2005 Biennial Budget Estimates,” February 2003, p. 31.

25. Unfortunately, data on Russian expenses on START inspections do not exist in open literature except for the year 2001, when 39.6 million rubles (about $1.4 million) were allocated in the state budget. Pyotr Romashkin, “Draft Federal Budget of 2001 and Spending for Implementing Strategic Arms Reduction Treaties,” Center for Arms Control, Energy and Environmental Studies, Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology (MIPT), September 8, 2000.

26. Ivan Sidorov, “Naskolko Otvetstvenno Storony Vypolnyayut Dogovor SNV-1? [To what extent the parties are responsible in START implementation?],” Yadernoye Rasprostraneniye, August–October 1999, pp. 64-69.

27. State Department arms control adherence guide, pp. 12-13; Sidorov, “Naskolko Otvetstvenno Storony Vypolnyayut Dogovor SNV-1?” pp. 64-69.

28. Sidorov, “Naskolko Otvetstvenno Storony Vypolnyayut Dogovor SNV-1?” pp. 64-69.

29. See A. S. Diakov, ed., U.S.-Russian Relations in Nuclear Arms Reductions: Current State and Prospects, Center for Arms Control, Energy and Environmental Studies, MIPT, 2001 (in Russian).

30. See Rose Gottemoeller, “Nuclear Weapons in Current Russian Policy,” in The Russian Military, Power and Policy, eds. Steven E. Miller and Dmitry Trenin ( Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2004), pp. 183-215.

31. Wade Boese, “ U.S., Russia Extend Threat Reduction Authority,” Arms Control Today, July/August 2006, p. 42.

32. Fiscal Year 2006 CTR Annual Report to Congress, 2005.

33. Local populations near solid propellant missile-elimination facilities have raised a wave of protests against the project, considering it unsafe for the environment. It is therefore likely that SS-25 elimination will proceed more slowly than planned, with correspondingly lower annual spending requirements.

34. Pyotr Romashkin, “Federal Budget Spending on Eliminating Excess Arms,” Center for Arms Control, Energy and Environmental Studies, MIPT, May 25, 2006

35. U.S. Department of Defense, “Quadrennial Defense Review Report,” February 3, 2006, p. 50.

Security Council Condemns NK Missile Tests

Paul Kerr

Ending weeks of speculation, North Korea launched seven missiles into the Sea of Japan July 4-5. The launches included a failed test of Pyongyang’s Taepo Dong-2, which some U.S. intelligence reports have estimated as capable of reaching the United States.

In response, the UN Security Council July 15 unanimously adopted Resolution 1695 condemning the launches and calling on Pyongyang to return to multilateral talks designed to resolve the crisis surrounding the country’s nuclear weapons program. North Korea’s other tests consisted of a combination of short- and medium-range Scud-C and Nodong ballistic missiles, apparently launched from the Kittaraeyong test site.

For several weeks, reports that Pyongyang might test the Taepo Dong-2 had raised concerns among the other five participants in the multilateral talks— China, Japan, Russia, South Korea, and the United States. The countries had warned North Korea against such a move. (See ACT, July/August 2006.)

North Korea had not tested any longer-range missiles since its August 1998 test of the three-stage, 2,000-kilometer-range Taepo Dong-1. (See ACT, August/September 1998.) The longest-range missile Pyongyang has deployed is the 1,300-kilometer-range Nodong.

By comparison, the range of the Taepo Dong-2 is estimated to be 5,000-15,000 kilometers, according to U.S. intelligence reports. The short flight time of the test, however, complicated a more exact determination of the launch vehicle’s range and payload, according to a Department of State official who spoke to Arms Control Today Aug. 22.

In any case, the missile appears to need further testing before deployment. National security adviser Stephen Hadley told reporters July 4 that the missile, which North Korea launched from its Taepo Dong test site, failed approximately 40 seconds into its flight.

But still the tests may have helped North Korea improve its military capabilities. During a July 20 hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Christopher Hill argued that North Korea could have learned from the failed Taepo Dong-2 test. Moreover, the short- and medium-range missile tests may have improved Pyongyang’s broader military capabilities, the Department of State official said. Describing the tests as “pretty close to a military exercise,” the official noted that Pyongyang last conducted multiple tests of similar missiles in 1993.

North Korea is also thought to be developing additional types of missiles, including a road-mobile, intermediate-range ballistic missile reportedly based on the liquid-fueled Soviet SS-N-6. But no such missiles were tested in July, according to the State Department official. (See ACT, December 2005.)

A July 4 State Department press statement described the launches as a “provocative act” that violated North Korea’s voluntary moratorium on flight-testing longer-range missiles. Pyongyang had observed the moratorium since September 1999.

In September 2002, North Korea agreed to extend the moratorium indefinitely as part of a bilateral agreement with Japan, known as the Pyongyang Declaration. Although the North Korean Foreign Ministry said in March 2005 that the moratorium was no longer “valid,” Pyongyang implicitly reaffirmed it in a September 2005 joint statement adopted after the fourth round of six-party talks.

However, North Korea’s ambassador to the United Nations, Pak Gil Yon, stated July 17 that these past commitments were invalid because the United States and Japan had taken actions inconsistent with the associated agreements.

For example, Pak said U.S. measures to curb illicit North Korean financial transactions were inconsistent with the joint statement. He also criticized Tokyo for making the normalization of its bilateral relations with Pyongyang contingent on resolution of the nuclear issue.

Security Council Resolution

After more than a week of contentious debate, the Security Council adopted the resolution, which was a compromise between a draft introduced by Japan and another co-sponsored by China and Russia.

Beijing and Moscow, who had initially suggested that the Security Council issue a nonbinding presidential statement condemning Pyongyang’s missile launch, argued that the Japan-drafted resolution could have paved the way for punitive council measures against North Korea.

Nonetheless, the Security Council’s response to North Korea’s July launches was considerably stronger than its reaction to Pyongyang’s 1998 tests. At that time, the council issued a press statement expressing “concern” regarding the launch.

The resolution condemns North Korea’s launches and “demands” that the country suspend its ballistic-missile activities as well as re-establish its flight-testing moratorium.

The resolution also requires states to prevent missiles and related “items, materials, goods and technology” from being transferred to North Korea’s missile or weapons of mass destruction programs. It requires countries to prevent the procurement of such items from Pyongyang and the transfer of any “financial resources in relation to” North Korea’s weapons programs. In addition to its nuclear weapons program, the United States suspects that Pyongyang also has chemical and possibly biological weapons programs.

The resolution also “strongly urges” North Korea to return to the six-party talks and abandon its nuclear weapons program. Pyongyang has refused to participate in the talks since the last meeting in November 2005 despite Chinese and South Korean efforts to convince it to do so. (See ACT, January/February 2006.)

In addition, Japan and South Korea found their own ways to punish North Korea for the missile tests. For example, Tokyo imposed sanctions such as barring North Korean officials and a North Korean passenger ferry from entering Japan. According to Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso, Tokyo is considering other measures to constrain the country’s nuclear and missile programs, such as targeting financial transactions with North Korea, Kyodo News Service reported July 28. South Korea followed through on a threat to halt food and fertilizer assistance to North Korea, although it provided humanitarian assistance to North Korean flood victims several weeks later.

For its part, North Korea’s Foreign Ministry stated July 16 that Pyongyang “would not be bound” by the resolution. The tests were “routine military training for self-defense,” the statement said.

Additionally, Pak indicated that Pyongyang might conduct more missile tests in the future.

Looking Ahead

Although the Security Council could again address the North Korean missile issue in the future, whether it will do so is unclear.

Hill declined to say during a July 21 press conference how Washington would respond if North Korea does not comply with the resolution.

The previous day, however, Hill testified that, in cooperation with countries such as China, the United States planned to “step up” economic pressure on Pyongyang. He also stated that Washington would increase its efforts under the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) to stop the movement of goods and materials related to weapons of mass destruction to North Korea, but he did not specify further.

PSI is a voluntary, U.S.-led initiative to interdict shipments of unconventional weapons and related components in transit at sea, on land, or in the air.

Whether the international community will continue to increase pressure on North Korea is unclear. For example, Washington appears to differ with other countries on the Security Council resolution’s scope. The Bush administration believes that the resolution prohibits a wide range of economic activity with North Korea, but some of Pyongyang’s neighbors appear to have a different view.

In an Aug. 9 interview with Arms Control Today, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorist Financing and Financial Crimes Daniel Glaser described the resolution’s requirements regarding financial transactions with North Korea as “quite broad,” noting that the country is engaged in a wide range of activities that could potentially provide funds for its weapons programs. Glaser indicated that most, if not all, transactions with North Korea would be suspect because of the difficulty in distinguishing between legitimate and illegitimate North Korean economic activity.

However, South Korean Foreign Minster Ban Ki-moon said July 19 that Seoul has no plans to take additional steps against North Korea, the semi-official Yonhap News Agency reported.

Hill appeared to acknowledge such differences, saying that the Bush administration wants to work with other countries to make sure that their transactions with North Korea conform to the Security Council resolution.

The July 16 North Korean Foreign Ministry statement raised concerns that Pyongyang might test a nuclear weapon. North Korea intends to “bolster its war deterrent for self-defence in every way by all means and methods,” according to the statement.

Confirming mid-August press reports that U.S. intelligence has observed signs that North Korea may be preparing to test a nuclear device, the State Department official said that Washington continues to monitor the suspect North Korean site.

However, the Russian Foreign Ministry said it had no information that North Korea was preparing for a nuclear test, RIA Novosti reported Aug. 18. Additionally, a ranking South Korean Foreign Ministry official cautioned the same day that the intelligence is not definitive, according to Yonhap.

Pyongyang has never conducted such a test, although the United States has previously observed what were believed to be possible North Korean test preparations. (See ACT, June 2005.)

North Korea claims to have produced both plutonium and nuclear weapons, but Hill testified July 20 that there is no evidence that Pyongyang actually has such weapons. Publicly available U.S. and Japanese assessments indicate that North Korea does not appear to be able to mate a nuclear warhead to its longer-range missiles.

 

UN Security Council Resolution 1695 on North Korea

The United Nations Security Council July 15 approved Resolution 1695 on North Korea’s missile program and recent missile launches. The resolution states that the Security Council “acting under its special responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security:”

 

1. Condemns the multiple launches by the DPRK of ballistic missiles on 5 July 2006 local time;

2. Demands that the DPRK suspend all activities related to its ballistic missile programme, and in this context re-establish its pre-existing commitments to a moratorium on missile launching;

3. Requires all Member States, in accordance with their national legal authorities and legislation and consistent with international law, to exercise vigilance and prevent missile and missile-related items, materials, goods and technology being transferred to DPRK’s missile or WMD programmes;

4. Requires all Member States, in accordance with their national legal authorities and legislation and consistent with international law, to exercise vigilance and prevent the procurement of missiles or missile related-items, materials, goods and technology from the DPRK, and the transfer of any financial resources in relation to DPRK’s missile or WMD programmes;

5. Underlines, in particular to the DPRK, the need to show restraint and refrain from any action that might aggravate tension, and to continue to work on the resolution of non-proliferation concerns through political and diplomatic efforts;

6. Strongly urges the DPRK to return immediately to the Six-Party Talks without precondition, to work towards the expeditious implementation of 19 September 2005 Joint Statement, in particular to abandon all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programmes, and to return at an early date to the Treaty on Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards;

7. Supports the six-party talks, calls for their early resumption, and urges all the participants to intensify their efforts on the full implementation of the 19 September 2005 Joint Statement with a view to achieving the verifiable denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula in a peaceful manner and to maintaining peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and in north-east Asia;

8. Decides to remain seized of the matter.

 

 

 

News Analysis: North Korea: Are the Six-Party Nuclear Talks Dead?

Paul Kerr

Last September, the six-party talks regarding North Korea’s nuclear program produced a joint statement that was hailed as a significant diplomatic breakthrough. But a year later, the talks are on the verge of collapse, with negotiators from China, Japan, North Korea, Russia, South Korea, and the United States last having met as a group in November.

Pyongyang blames the breakdown primarily on U.S. efforts to crack down on what Washington says are illicit North Korean financial transactions. Pyongyang argues that these efforts represent the latest attempt by the Bush administration to undermine the Kim Jong Il regime and extract concessions in the six-party talks. Further talks, North Korea says, will only serve as a diplomatic fig leaf until the Bush administration commits itself to serious negotiations.

By contrast, the United States says that the financial measures were not imposed as a negotiating tactic but to prevent money laundering for illegal activities. Bush administration officials have dismissed Pyongyang’s criticisms as diplomatic bluster, aimed at providing a convenient excuse to avoid discussing its September 2005 pledges to give up its nuclear weapons programs. Washington also argues that, in the long run, constraining these illegitimate activities will encourage North Korea to return to the bargaining table and follow through on its commitments. (See ACT, April 2006.)

However, recent actions by Pyongyang appear to have brought the efficacy of this U.S. strategy into question. In July, North Korea escalated tensions by conducting ballistic missile tests. It is also suspected of preparing for a nuclear test explosion.

Former U.S. officials and nongovernmental experts are increasingly pessimistic that the talks will produce any meaningful results, if they resume at all. In an interview with Arms Control Today Aug. 24, Peter Beck of the International Crisis Group likened the talks to a “dead man walking.”

Indeed, neither the United States nor North Korea appear to be willing to meet each other’s conditions for restarting the talks and making progress. Absent U.S. efforts to demonstrate seriousness about negotiating with North Korea, analysts say, there is little chance that North Korea will return to the talks. Pyongyang’s refusal to participate in the talks has reinforced Washington’s view that North Korea prefers propagandizing to negotiating. Even if the talks were to take place, the analysts expressed even more pessimism that negotiations would produce a meaningful agreement. In the meantime, they warn, Pyongyang will likely continue to produce additional plutonium for use as fissile material in nuclear weapons.

As a high-ranking North Korean diplomat told a former Department of State official Aug. 7, the two countries “are now headed toward confrontation.”

Washington versus Pyongyang

The September 2005 agreement appeared to represent a watershed after more than four years of high tension between Pyongyang and the Bush administration and more than three years of six-party talks.

Pyongyang agreed at that time to abandon verifiably both its plutonium and highly enriched uranium (HEU) nuclear programs. For its part, Washington agreed to respect North Korea’s sovereignty and said that, at some future point, it would consider allowing Pyongyang a light-water nuclear reactor.

Nonetheless, the diplomatic situation began to deteriorate almost immediately. Bush administration critics frequently note that comments from U.S. officials such as Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Christopher Hill and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice following the statement suggested that the United States was backing off of its commitments regarding the light-water nuclear reactor. Those remarks were followed by a North Korean statement suggesting that Pyongyang would not meet its disarmament obligations until much later than implied by the joint statement. (See ACT, December 2005.)

North Korea’s Foreign Ministry claimed Aug. 26 that North Korea “likes to have the six-party talks more than ever as it will gain from the implementation of the agreement more than others.” Yet, it also contended that the United States is not serious about implementing the joint statement.

The North Korean diplomat also reportedly remarked that Pyongyang continues to believe that the Bush administration’s policy is to eschew serious negotiations while attempting to strangle the North Korean economy through what it calls “financial sanctions.” Pyongyang, therefore, will concentrate on strengthening its “nuclear deterrent,” the diplomat said.

These financial sanctions refer to the Department of the Treasury’s September 2005 designation of the Macau bank Banco Delta Asia as a “money laundering concern.” The United States asserts that the bank provided financial services to North Korean government agencies and front companies engaged in illicit activities, such as drug trafficking and the distribution of counterfeit U.S. currency. Since the U.S. designation, the bank has frozen North Korea’s accounts. Other financial institutions have also reportedly curtailed their dealings both with the bank and North Korea. (See ACT, May 2006.)

The North Korean Foreign Ministry statement described the “financial sanctions” as “a stumbling-block lying in the way” of Pyongyang returning to the talks, as well as a “barometer judging whether the U.S. is willing” to alter its North Korea policy.

According to the North Korean diplomat, Pyongyang still wants the United States to end its investigation of Banco Delta Asia so as to unfreeze approximately $24 million in North Korean funds.

North Korean and U.S. officials met in March to discuss the Banco Delta Asia matter, but no further discussions have taken place since then. At the time, North Korean officials made several suggestions for resolving U.S. concerns about the country’s illicit activities. These reportedly included allowing Pyongyang to open a U.S.-based account so Washington might better monitor North Korea’s financial transactions. The Bush administration, however, apparently rejected these proposals. Hill told reporters July 21 that “there are plenty of technical ways” for North Korea to demonstrate that it has stopped the counterfeiting of U.S. currency.

Pyongyang has reiterated its interest in bilateral talks with the United States. For example, a June 1 Foreign Ministry statement invited Hill to visit North Korea and “directly explain” the U.S. position regarding the September joint statement. The Foreign Ministry also argued that the Bush administration’s unwillingness to meet bilaterally with North Korean officials is an indication that it is not sincerely committed to negotiations.

For its part, the Bush administration has continued to turn down North Korean requests for direct negotiations outside of the six-party context, instead calling on North Korea to return to the talks where the two sides could then discuss the matter bilaterally. Rice stated July 28 that “the United States remains ready at any time, at any place and without any conditions” to engage in the six-party talks. Furthermore, Hill told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee July 20 that the administration is not seeking regime change in North Korea, adding that “we have to deal with” the existing government.

U.S. actions to constrain North Korea’s financial transactions seem likely to continue. Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorist Financing and Financial Crimes Daniel Glaser told Arms Control Today Aug. 9 that the United States is working to persuade more financial institutions to curtail their dealings with Pyongyang.

Similarly, Stuart Levey, treasury undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence and Glaser’s superior, claimed in an Aug. 28 interview with the Associated Press that banks in China, Mongolia, Singapore, and Vietnam are choosing to no longer engage in financial transactions with North Korea.

“Is there a complete cutoff, so that they can’t get banking anywhere? No, that’s not the case, but they’re having a very difficult time finding banking services,” Levey said. “You’re seeing a near complete isolation.”

The United States has also targeted North Korean firms suspected of being involved in transferring weapons of mass destruction-related materials to other countries. For example, the United States placed sanctions July 28 on two North Korean firms for providing unspecified equipment and technology that could aid Iran’s missile or nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons programs.

There appears to be little prospect for compromise. Chris Nelson, author of The Nelson Report, an in-depth newsletter with a strong emphasis on East Asia, told Arms Control Today Aug. 25 that he believes there are no effective advocates within Washington for compromising with North Korea. Beck added that the Bush administration has “no appetite” for such conciliatory measures, saying that it had displayed its maximum flexibility during last summer’s six-party talks.

Whither the Six-Party Talks?

Predictions regarding the future of the talks depend in part on how one perceives North Korea’s motivations. Some experts portray Pyongyang as a frustrated negotiator. Leon Sigal of the Social Science Research Council said in an Aug. 21 interview with Arms Control Today that North Korea has tried to negotiate in good faith but has not found a willing negotiating partner in Washington. According to such advocates of engagement, only a sincere U.S. diplomatic effort involving bilateral talks, for example, or an end to the financial measures would provide Pyongyang with sufficient incentive to compromise.

David Straub, who handled Korean affairs at the State Department during 2002-2004, agreed that the Bush administration has not sufficiently tested North Korea’s intentions by engaging in serious bilateral diplomacy. But he also cautioned Aug. 24 that North Korea’s willingness to reach a mutually acceptable solution to its nuclear program has been open to question since at least the Clinton administration.

Indeed, Michael Green, who was President George W. Bush’s National Security Council senior director for Asian affairs until December 2005, told Arms Control Today Aug. 21 that Pyongyang’s escalation is “opportunistic” rather than “reactive” and reflects a long-standing North Korean strategy to obtain a nuclear arsenal.

Green said that North Korea might return to the talks in response to increased international pressure. But Green warned that Pyongyang is not likely to give up its nuclear weapons program, even in exchange for generous incentives. He said that North Korea has expressed no interest in pursuing any of the inducements contained in the September 2005 joint statement.

Similarly, James Kelly, who served as assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs during Bush’s first term, said in an Aug. 25 interview with Arms Control Today that North Korea might agree to abandon its plutonium-based nuclear program but would probably seek to retain its HEU program.

The Impact of the Missile Tests

North Korea’s July 4-5 ballistic missile launches, which included a test of its Taepo Dong-2, a missile that some U.S. intelligence estimates said was potentially capable of reaching the United States, produced a clear negative response from the international community. But it is unclear that this response will induce North Korea to be more conciliatory.

The UN Security Council adopted Resolution 1695 on July 15, which condemned the tests and may pave the way for other countries to put restrictions on North Korea’s weapons programs and financial transactions. Additionally, South Korea and Japan unilaterally took punitive actions against Pyongyang.

Rice argued July 16 that China’s vote for the Security Council resolution showed that Washington’s strategy is “really paying off.”

Still, Pyongyang conducted the missile tests despite public pressure from all other participants in the talks, suggesting that the country is more willing to defy its neighbors, notably China, than many experts had previously believed. Most sources agreed that the missile tests are a sign of North Korea’s willingness to risk increased tensions and possibly further sanctions, although to what end is unclear.

Nelson suggested that North Korea may have viewed the test as part of a long-standing tactic of escalating tensions to improve its leverage in the six-party talks.

North Korea’s defiance, however, may also be a sign that Pyongyang has fundamentally changed its policy toward the negotiations. Several sources argue that North Korea may have concluded that the talks will not yield positive results. Therefore, Pyongyang would be better off bearing the political or economic consequences and continuing to improve its nuclear and missile capabilities.

Some proponents of this view attribute this change to internal North Korean politics, arguing that the “center of gravity” within Pyongyang has shifted to more hard-line elements increasingly skeptical of engagement with the United States. This assertion reportedly was confirmed by the North Korean diplomat. Hill seemed to support this view as well during a June 29 House International Relations Committee hearing. “Even dictatorships have politics,” Hill said, adding that “there are certainly indications…that some factions are more wedded to nuclear weapons than others.”

According to another North Korean pundit, hard-liners in Pyongyang seem to have discounted the missile tests’ impact on the talks. They have decided that “it is futile to negotiate with the Bush White House,” said Peter Hayes, executive director of the Nautilus Institute for Security and Sustainable Development.

Under these conditions, some worry that there are few incentives to encourage North Korea to refrain from a nuclear test, which may be Pyongyang’s next step in the escalation ladder.

However, North Korea might be dissuaded from testing by fears that the flow of trade and aid from North Korea’s neighbors, particularly South Korea and China, would be cut. Indeed, South Korean Foreign Minster Ban Ki-moon has warned North Korea against such a move, the Associated Press reported Aug. 23.

But China’s and South Korea’s thus far limited response to the missile tests may have signaled to Pyongyang that the costs of a nuclear test would be limited. Furthermore, according to Green, Pyongyang may not value its current levels of trade and aid enough to forgo a nuclear test. He noted that North Korea’s neighbors have kept the country from collapsing but have not helped it to prosper.

North Korea’s motivation to conduct a nuclear test explosion may be to demonstrate, beyond doubt, that it possesses a nuclear weapons arsenal. There would also be a technical advantage to proof-testing a North Korean weapon design.

Short of a test, North Korea could choose another way to escalate the crisis. Sigal suggested that North Korea might choose to shut down its five-megawatt nuclear reactor in order to at least give the impression that it is producing more plutonium.

The Limits of Pressure

Although the Bush administration appears determined to carry out its current strategy, North Korea’s missile tests, along with its continued intransigence, may have revealed the limits of this approach.

The amount of additional pressure that the United States can bring to bear on North Korea is limited. The two countries lack diplomatic relations and have no significant economic interactions. Pressuring North Korea therefore requires the cooperation of other participants in the talks, such as South Korea and China, but they have been reluctant to squeeze North Korea without greater U.S. flexibility or willingness to engage in bilateral talks.

For example, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Liu Jianchao has argued that the “problem of [financial] sanctions must be solved urgently if the Korean Peninsula is to be denuclearized,” Interfax news agency reported Aug. 8.

Four days earlier, Liu said that the United States should engage North Korea in bilateral discussions in order to “resuscitate” the six-party talks, Yonhap News Agency reported. The South Korean foreign minister echoed this statement Aug. 3.

Some U.S. commentators agree. Robert Gallucci, who served as Washington’s point man for negotiations with North Korea during a 1993-1994 confrontation over its nuclear program, told Arms Control Today in July that even if Security Council Resolution 1695 helped pressure North Korea to return to the talks, “in the end the United States should find a way to get beyond the six-party modality and begin direct, even informal, negotiations with Pyongyang.”

In addition, targeting North Korean financial transactions and illicit activities could have less of a material effect on the country than the administration appears to believe. April congressional testimony from Secret Service and State Department officials indicates that activities such as narcotics trafficking and counterfeit currency production may not be a large source of revenue for the regime. Straub concurred that the studies concluding otherwise are “best guesses.”

 

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