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"I actually have a pretty good collection of Arms Control Today, which I have read throughout my career. It's one of the few really serious publications on arms control issues."
– Gary Samore
Former White House Coordinator for Arms Control and WMD Terrorism
November 2006
Edition Date: 
Wednesday, November 1, 2006
Cover Image: 

Nuclear Shockwaves: Ramifications of the North Korean Nuclear Test

Ambassador Robert Gallucci

North Korea’s nuclear test almost certainly failed to achieve its design yield. Nevertheless, it is likely to spread major shockwaves, domestically and internationally. Domestically, the finger pointing has begun, inevitably if regrettably, as a threat to the national security dramatically rises in public awareness on the eve of midterm congressional elections.

As much as we might want to deplore the reduction of a critical and complex foreign policy issue to a debating point in partisan political exchange, however, it is important to sort out the facts of what has happened in the last decade or so if we want to chart a more effective course for policy in the years ahead. The political atmosphere may not be the best for dispassionate analysis and clear thinking, but that is exactly what is needed.

North Korea began building its nuclear weapons program in the 1980s—three nuclear reactors and a plutonium-separation plant—just as it was signing the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). By the time President Bill Clinton was sworn into office in January 1993, Pyongyang had already separated enough plutonium for one or two nuclear weapons and stood in defiance of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards. The president was told by his intelligence community that if the North Korean program was not stopped, the existing reactor and the other two under construction would produce, within five years or so, enough plutonium to manufacture 30 nuclear weapons annually. Following a UN Security Council resolution and proceeding in close consultation with our allies in Seoul and Tokyo, the president authorized direct bilateral negotiations with the North Koreans. Sixteen difficult months of intense, on-again, off-again negotiations later, the Agreed Framework was signed by North Korean and U.S. representatives.

Many of us believe that the deal was only possible because the U.S. military presence on the Korean Peninsula was visibly enhanced while we were negotiating; because, at a critical point, the United States broke off talks to pursue a sanctions resolution in the UN Security Council; and because former President Jimmy Carter traveled to Pyongyang and provided the North Koreans a face-saving way to back away from the brink at the most critical moment. Whether the Agreed Framework was the result of a well-orchestrated political-military strategy or not, it clearly provided for the immediate freezing of the entire North Korean nuclear program and its eventual dismantlement, as well as the resolution of the vexing problem of the original plutonium produced before Clinton took office. To be sure, the North Koreans “won” too, getting the immediate delivery of heavy-fuel oil and the construction of two large, proliferation-resistant nuclear power reactors, financed and supplied by South Korea and Japan to replace the more dangerous reactors they were already building.

This history is pretty clear, but what happens next less so. The North Koreans clearly expected improved relations with the United States, the one benefit that could compensate them for giving up their nuclear deterrent. Some sanctions were lifted, but some remained. The envisioned liaison offices were not opened, and relations between our two countries were not normalized. At the same time, fuel oil was delivered, and construction on the power reactors was begun. North Korea complied with its obligations to freeze its entire nuclear program. Then, however, perhaps three or four years after the negotiation of the framework, North Korea began to cheat by secretly receiving components for a gas-centrifuge uranium-enrichment facility from Pakistan. This was implicitly inconsistent with the framework. The Clinton administration planned to take up the matter with North Korea, along with concerns about its ballistic missile program and conventional force deployments, but time ran out.

So, when President George W. Bush came into office, like Clinton he was confronted with a situation in North Korea, but one that was far less pressing. The plutonium for one or two nuclear weapons was still all that was available to North Korea, while the entire plutonium production program was frozen and under IAEA inspection, and the other elements of the framework were on track. The problem was that of the secret North Korean effort to acquire the components for a gas-centrifuge plant. If completed, the plant could someday produce material for a nuclear weapons program. The Bush administration’s approach to the problem quickly took shape four years ago when it confronted Pyongyang with the knowledge of its secret program and the demand that Pyongyang give it up before any further negotiations could take place. When North Korea refused, Washington abandoned the Agreed Framework, prompting Pyongyang to do likewise, kicking inspectors out, withdrawing from the NPT, starting up the reactor, separating plutonium, and announcing the acquisition of a deterrent.

During the intervening years, Pyongyang has pressed for bilateral talks with Washington, while the administration has insisted on six-party talks that include China, Japan, Russia, and South Korea. The talks began in 2003, but little progress was made until last year when the outlines of a new framework were agreed, just as the Department of the Treasury rang alarm bells regarding a bank in Macau it accused of assisting North Korean counterfeiting activities. This prompted the North Koreans to refuse to meet in the six-party mode so long as it was an object of “sanctions.”

What are we to make of this brief history? It is difficult to see how the current situation can be said to have resulted from the Clinton policy of engagement. One could argue, of course, that Clinton failed to solve the North Korean nuclear problem because he left office with the North Koreans secretly acquiring components for gas-centrifuge machines. Although that is true, it begs the question of how proliferation problems can ever be completely resolved. The secret of the bomb is out, and nuclear physicists and engineers can be recruited domestically or internationally. Nuclear weapons development activity that can be stopped can always be restarted. If intentions change, so can capabilities.

At the same time, we might ask what the Bush administration’s policy, which has been far more resistant to negotiating than that of the Clinton administration, has gained the United States. Although we have successfully avoided “rewarding” North Korea with our presence in bilateral talks, Pyongyang has tested a series of ballistic missiles, separated enough plutonium for about eight additional nuclear weapons, and conducted one nuclear test explosion. The Bush administration’s policy may be righteous, but it has failed to secure the nation’s interest.

The international consequences of the latest North Korean provocation have already been felt in domestic political dialogue in Seoul and Tokyo. Not soon but eventually, there will be serious discussion of the virtue of continued nuclear abstinence. Second, North Korea undoubtedly learned something from its test, no matter its actual design yield, just as it learned something from its failed Taepo Dong-2 missile test in July. So, Pyongyang is one step closer to mating nuclear weapons to an extended-range ballistic missile capable of hitting Tokyo today and Los Angeles tomorrow. Most ominously of all, as we and our friends in the UN Security Council pass the toughest sanctions resolutions we can—as we must at least to set an example for others—we push the North Koreans ever closer to crossing the ultimate redline: selling fissile material to al Qaeda. That poses a threat against which our country has no real defense and no effective deterrent. It is the most serious threat to our national security today.

There are now and have always been only three options available to deal with the North Korean problem: military force, sanctions, and negotiation. Although the military option was available but unappealing a dozen years ago, it is barely so today. Limited targets, little reserve force to deal with retaliation, and an ally in Seoul hostile to military action argue against this option. Sanctions, always limited by what China will permit and South Korea will enforce, will not force North Korean compliance. At best, they force North Korea to the negotiating table; at worst, they will amount to a policy of containment or acceptance of a growing North Korean nuclear weapons program. This poses unacceptable risks to our nation’s security. That leaves genuine negotiation in which we expect to get what we need and concede to Pyongyang at least some of what it wants. This is by far the best course, and we had better get on with it.

What would negotiations look like? The modality, administration protestations to the contrary notwithstanding, is not important. If there are six-party talks, the real negotiations will be done bilaterally anyway between U.S. and North Korean diplomats. If the talks are bilateral, Washington will do again what it did a dozen years ago during the framework negotiations, keeping Beijing and Moscow informed and consulting Seoul and Tokyo on a daily basis. Any outcomes that the United States would want to have implemented multilaterally could be accomplished in either negotiating modality.

The real questions about a negotiation with North Korea are substantive. First, will Pyongyang truly give up and dismantle its nuclear weapons program, including old and newly separated plutonium, the operating research reactor and other gas-graphite reactors under construction, its plutonium-separation facility, and its gas-centrifuge and associated uranium-enrichment facilities?

This question goes to the underlying issue of North Korea’s purpose in its nuclear weapons program. If it is truly defensive, to have a deterrent to dissuade the United States from attempting to inflict regime change, then it will give it up only if convinced that the threat has been removed. It would then fall to Washington to make credible its willingness to tolerate a North Korea that forsakes nuclear weapons but clings to ballistic missiles, forward-deployed conventional forces, and a totalitarian regime guilty of most horrendous human rights violations against its own people. It is not at all clear that the Bush administration is willing to do that.

That is the fundamental question, but a secondary issue has arisen in the talks last year that threatens to derail any deal if not addressed successfully. This is the question of whether Washington and its allies in Tokyo and Seoul are again willing to offer Pyongyang light-water nuclear power reactors as a part of the package of inducements, along with security assurances, removal of sanctions, and perhaps other economic concessions.

Those reactors were important to Pyongyang in 1994, and they seem to have renewed importance during negotiations last year. Many in Congress and elsewhere are opposed to providing these reactors or, more accurately, supporting the provision of them by South Korea and Japan, presumably because light-water reactors also produce plutonium. For a variety of technical reasons, however, we concluded in 1994 and should again, if we have the opportunity, that light-water reactors are substantially more proliferation resistant than the gas-graphite reactors and thus could be part of a package of incentives so long as South Korea and Japan are prepared to finance and build them.

In the end, the question is less whether North Korea is prepared to make a deal than it is whether the United States has the stomach for another negotiation and another framework arrangement, knowing that Pyongyang cheated on the last one. Those tempted to answer in the negative should be required to describe a better, plausible alternative to negotiation.


Ambassador Robert Gallucci is dean of the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. In 1998, he was appointed the Department of State’s special envoy to deal with the proliferation of ballistic missiles and weapons of mass destruction. He helped oversee the disarmament of Iraq after the 1991 Persian Gulf War as the deputy executive chairman of the UN Special Commission and subsequently helped negotiate the 1994 Agreed Framework to freeze North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.

Nuclear Shockwaves: Making the Best of Bad Options

Michael J. Green

North Korea’s October 9 nuclear test has been called a failure of U.S., South Korean, and Chinese policy, and those criticisms are undoubtedly accurate to some degree. Lost in the finger pointing, however, is the strong evidence that Kim Jong Il intended all along to demonstrate North Korea’s unambiguous status as a nuclear-weapon state regardless of what steps the other parties took.

North Korea’s steady march toward this test has left a trail of broken agreements and lost opportunities for greater interaction with the international community:

    • The 1991 Agreement on Reconciliation, Non-aggression, Exchanges and Cooperation and the Joint Declaration on the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. This agreement explicitly forbade the kind of clandestine North Korean uranium-enrichment program that the United States publicly revealed in 2002.[1]

    • The 1994 Agreed Framework. This deal offered Pyongyang a path toward normalization and the provision of two light-water reactors in exchange for a freeze of the Yongbyon reactor and the eventual accounting and inspections for all other fissile material and programs. North Korea began violating this agreement in the late 1990s with work on its clandestine uranium-enrichment program and never made any progress on discussions toward inspections.

    • The September 17, 2002, Japan-DPRK Pyongyang Declaration. This pact included not only a commitment to end the nuclear programs but also to maintain a missile launch moratorium, which North Korea violated in July 2006 with a test of seven missiles, including short-, medium-, and long-range varieties.[2]

  • The September 19, 2005, Joint Statement of the fourth round of the six-party talks. Pyongyang pledged to eliminate all nuclear weapons and nuclear programs in this agreement in exchange for an array of security assurances, non-nuclear energy cooperation, economic assistance, and normalization talks from the other parties. Only days after this agreement was signed, North Korea said it would not return to the talks until the United States dropped what Pyongyang called its “hostile policy,” specifically the U.S. clarification in coordination with the other parties that North Korea would not be allowed to discuss the provision of light-water reactors until nuclear weapons and programs had been completely dismantled.[3] North Korea also took exception to sanctions the United States imposed that month on a bank in Macau that had been laundering illicit North Korean funds.

In retrospect, each of these episodes suggests that North Korea treated agreements and negotiations as a tactic to buy time and space to continue with the one goal to which Pyongyang was truly committed: possessing nuclear weapons and the missiles to deliver them to target. Each diplomatic turn in the story, however, also demonstrated that North Korea is not completely immune to the coercive power of the international community or the possible inducements available from participating in diplomatic negotiations. In the end, no clear conclusion can be drawn about what might have stopped North Korea from testing or might in the future convince Pyongyang to roll back its nuclear weapons programs.

Four Schools of Thought

The debate in the United States over what might induce or compel North Korea to give up nuclear weapons has been framed by four basic schools of thought. With each provocation by Pyongyang, the dispute among these four points of view has only intensified. Engagers argue that the United States could make a breakthrough by directly negotiating a package of security assurances in exchange for denuclearization with Pyongyang.[4] Hawkish Doves argue for presenting such a package directly to Pyongyang but backing it with the threat of military action if Pyongyang does not change its behavior.[5] Tailored Containers argue for isolating North Korea and creating a prophylactic seal around the nation to prevent the transfer of nuclear materials in or nuclear weapons out.[6] Regime Changers argue for an aggressive policy to end the North Korean nuclear and human rights problems once and for all by toppling Kim’s government.

Thus far, the administration has not embraced any of these strategies in full, focusing instead on the six-party talks that bring together China, Japan, South Korea, Russia, the United States, and North Korea to address the North Korean nuclear issue. The six-party talks were designed to provide a framework for negotiation with North Korea that would bring to bear the additional leverage necessary to supplement the limited leverage of the United States. After all, the United States has virtually no trade with North Korea to embargo, while unilateral coercive military options are difficult to employ without counterproductive side effects, such as South Korean divergence from the United States or the risk of North Korean military strikes on Seoul or Tokyo. Moreover, the six-party talks framework ensures that powers thus far not fully engaged in the diplomacy, particularly China, are fully invested in the outcome. This aspect of the six-party dynamics helps to explain why Beijing has been far more forthcoming in the UN Security Council debate over North Korea than would have been the case four years ago.

At this point the focus is on implementing targeted sanctions under UN Security Council Resolution 1718, approved October 14. The other parties, however, particularly China and South Korea, will expect a fuller tool kit that includes a diplomatic track. In the process of constructing that full tool kit, it may be worth re-examining the four schools of thought. North Korea may be the land of bad options, but within each bad option lies some useful elements of a new strategy.

Bilateral Engagement

It is a myth that the Bush administration has not engaged in bilateral dialogue with North Korea. In addition to the three days in October 2002 spent in Pyongyang by the delegation led by Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Jim Kelly, senior U.S. officials have clocked hundreds of hours talking to their North Korean counterparts in sessions during the six-party talks and with North Korea’s UN representatives in the so-called New York Channel. Nevertheless, serious proponents of greater bilateral engagement argue that the North Korean power structure requires that U.S. negotiators participate in direct discussions and full negotiations with Kim in order to reach an agreement. In addition, Engagers argue that a substantive package has yet to be put on the table to demonstrate that North Korea can benefit from ending nuclear weapons. Finally, they maintain that public criticism of the North Korean leader or system is counterproductive to diplomacy and that security assurances and softer rhetoric will prove more effective.

Many of the advocates of more direct bilateral engagement are veterans of past negotiations with the country and know from that experience that the North Korean Foreign Ministry has little flexibility beyond strict guidance presented by Kim. Moreover, they are correct that if the administration is serious about implementation of the September 19 joint statement, there will have to be extensive direct negotiations between U.S. and North Korean officials to work out many of the details. It is also clear that U.S. criticism of North Korea’s system or Kim will often cause the North to walk away from talks.

Yet, there would be serious pitfalls in a strategy premised on the assumption that the main obstacle to success is North Korean insecurity or an inability to deal directly with Kim. It should not be surprising that Pyongyang professes an interest in discussions of “peaceful coexistence” with Washington because North Korea’s version of such an entente would mean validation of the ongoing nuclear weapons program without requiring verifiable dismantlement. Indeed, North Korea benefited immensely in terms of international aid and diplomatic recognition after the Agreed Framework was concluded in 1994, and Pyongyang clearly sought a visit by President Bill Clinton in 2000 to consolidate those gains. The cost to North Korea was a temporary freezing of its known and easily targeted Yongbyon reactor, but weapons development based on previously extracted plutonium and a clandestine highly enriched uranium program continued, a massive investment by North Korea that was not simply a hedge against U.S. noncompliance with the Agreed Framework. North Korea’s demand for bilateral negotiations and specifically for light-water reactors is aimed at returning to that dynamic and casting the nuclear weapons program as a response to U.S. actions rather than an objective in itself that ultimately threatens the entire region. The demand for the provision of light-water reactors puts further pressure on the U.S. side to “deliver” and allows the North Korean side to delay any meaningful inspections or dismantlement, a tactic further enhanced by claims of a “hostile” U.S. policy.

There is also reason to question whether Pyongyang is waiting for the right enticements in order to abandon its nuclear weapons programs. It is striking, for example, that North Korea refused to follow up on South Korea’s July 2005 offer to transmit two million kilowatts of electricity to North Korea in exchange for steps to freeze and dismantle its nuclear programs.[7] Equally telling has been Pyongyang’s preoccupation with establishing a right to “peaceful” nuclear capabilities in the six-party talks and North Korea’s complete disinterest in exploring the other parties’ specific proposals for security assurances, non-nuclear energy assistance, and economic development.

Finally, although remaining silent about North Korea’s horrific human rights record and state-sponsored export of drugs and counterfeit money might remove a frequent obstacle to North Korea’s participation in the six-party talks, a policy of self-censorship on these issues would also define international deviancy downward in ways that would only enable North Korea’s illicit behavior and nuclear activities. If the international community is going to muster the will to stop North Korea’s nuclear programs, it is critical that the nature and actions of the North Korean regime not be brushed aside. It is important, however, that the international community speak with one voice on the nature of the regime while making it clear that the goal is a change in behavior and not in regime, a point that the U.S. delegation made very clearly to Pyongyang in October 2002.

Ultimately, it is the tactical insight that direct bilateral negotiations with Pyongyang are critical at some point in the process that proves most useful to our comprehensive tool kit. Yet, those bilateral negotiations should not come in response to a nuclear test because that sends the wrong signal to North Korea and other proliferators, such as Iran. Moreover, the negotiations must be firmly embedded within the six-party process and must be part of the implementation of the North Korean agreements to address the concerns of the other parties.

Bigger Sticks and Bigger Carrots

The Hawkish Doves likewise begin with the premise of the Engagers that North Korea can be convinced to abandon nuclear weapons with the right incentive package, but they recognize that there also has to be considerable pressure to sharpen Kim’s thinking. This “preventive defense” concept informed former Secretary of Defense Bill Perry’s negotiations with North Korea in May 1999.[8] At that time, the Clinton administration was prepared to move toward flexible deterrence options if North Korea did not implement its commitments to verifiably abandon nuclear weapons. Advocates of this approach argue with some justification that the current multilateral approach toward North Korea has thus far lacked sufficient urgency or consequences for bad behavior, given Pyongyang’s undeterred development of nuclear weapons.

The main shortcoming with the preventive defense approach is that the strategic situation surrounding the Korean peninsula has changed in unfavorable ways over the past decade. North Korea now has an arsenal of about 200 Nodong ballistic missiles capable of striking Japan, a deterrent that did not exist in the mid-to-late 1990s. In addition, South Korean attitudes have shifted so profoundly against military options, encouraged by the left-leaning government of President Roh Moo-hyun, that even the implied threat of force can drive a dangerous wedge between Seoul and Washington, weakening the overall diplomatic pressure on Pyongyang. Any actual use of force would put South Korea at risk of massive retaliation because Seoul is roughly 50 kilometers from the demilitarized zone and targeted with thousands of artillery tubes and Scud missiles.[9] If the United States struck and Seoul took the brunt of the retaliation, the U.S.-South Korean alliance and the overall U.S. strategic position in Northeast Asia could be irreparably damaged. Of course, North Korea is now widely acknowledged to possess at least several nuclear devices, a situation that was not as clear a decade ago.

Nevertheless, although military tools may be less useful to diplomacy today than they were a decade ago, the Hawkish Doves’ focus on the need for sticks to back diplomacy is an insight that can add to a better tool kit. North Korea must see that there are concrete negative consequences for noncompliance.

Tailored Containment

Recognizing the pitfalls of relying either on diplomacy or the use of force, a third view has emerged advocating prophylactic containment of North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. Under this strategy, the international community would be encouraged to cut off trade and diplomacy with the North, and a web of export controls and active interdiction operations would be put in place to prevent Pyongyang from transferring nuclear weapons or related materials into or out of the country. Missile defense and enhanced deterrence planning would serve as further insurance until the North Korean regime no longer exists.

The assumption behind this strategy, that North Korea is prepared to incur great adversity rather than abandon its nuclear weapons program, appears increasingly accurate. Moreover, new tools developed in the war on terrorism to track terrorist financing have proven highly effective against North Korea, which relies heavily on banks in places such as Macau to launder drug and counterfeit money and to finance acquisition of weapons of mass destruction (WMD)-related materials. In addition, the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) has largely succeeded in establishing interdiction as an international norm, with about 80 states quietly cooperating with the United States and its allies to stop trade in WMD-related technologies. China and South Korea have not participated in PSI, but China’s support for UN Security Council Resolution 1695 on July 15 and Resolution 1718 three months later demonstrates that Beijing is increasingly willing to impose targeted sanctions, interdictions, and export controls on North Korea.[10]

A pure strategy of tailored containment, however, would face significant challenges. North Korea’s money flow is vulnerable to interdiction and sanctions, but it would be impossible to establish a leak-proof seal against the transfer of nuclear weapons or technology. Moreover, a strategy of tailored containment would signal that the United States has abandoned diplomacy, which could push South Korea and China to pursue separate diplomatic agreements with North Korea or risk undermining the credibility of the U.S. extended deterrent in Japan, which rests on deterrence and U.S. diplomatic leadership.

Where tailored containment fills out, the tool kit is on the hedging and pressure side of the equation. North Korea may never abandon its nuclear weapons programs, and the United States has an obligation and an ability to use interdiction and other measures to slow Pyongyang’s progress and at least to complicate external transfer. These actions also provide useful sticks to back up diplomacy, although they would proceed regardless of North Korea’s diplomatic stance because they target activities that are in themselves threatening or illegal.

Regime Change

Given the human rights crisis in North Korea and the difficulty of convincing dictators to abandon nuclear weapons, regime change has struck many as the only reliable approach to North Korea. The very words “regime change” can cause panic in some parts of Washington and Seoul, but contemplating the implications of such an approach has merit. For one thing, there are fissures and vulnerabilities in North Korea. Kim does not enjoy the legitimacy or aura of infallibility commanded by his father, Kim Il Sung. The army is the spine of North Korean society, but its million-plus soldiers are undernourished, poorly trained, and poorly equipped. Finally, the October 9 nuclear test and the international community’s response may ultimately unleash forces within North Korea that have unpredictable effects.

Despite the intellectual merits of considering regime change strategies, however, the practical obstacles and risks are still insurmountable. China and South Korea each fear the chaos of regime collapse as much as they do North Korea’s nuclear weapons. Beijing at least appears positioned to inject enough aid into the regime to keep it afloat even if there is escalation by Pyongyang. Moreover, although regime change may be the most effective guarantee of complete, verifiable, and irreversible dismantlement of North Korea’s nuclear programs, it is also the most permissive scenario for transfer of nuclear weapons or technology outside of the country. After all, the regime can be deterred from using or transferring nuclear weapons, but a North Korean general with access codes, a Swiss bank account, and no central power above him might not be as easily deterred or stopped.

An active policy to force regime change is therefore least compatible with the six-party talks framework and the other three strategies reviewed here. There may be a day when regime change is the preferred strategy, but the situation has not reached that point yet, given the enormous complications and downside risks associated with any attempt to topple Kim. Nevertheless, regime change does prompt consideration of two elements that should be part of a tool kit. First, no actions should be taken that artificially prop up the regime or enable Pyongyang to continue with business as usual, absent significant steps at denuclearization. Second, given the probable fragility of the regime, it is important to prepare with our allies and the other parties in the talks for the possible consequences of instability or unanticipated unification.

In short, regime change is not a viable strategy at present, but it could still occur at any time. The other parties should begin quietly preparing for such a scenario.

Building a Tool Kit From the Range of Bad Options

Although each of these four strategies would be incompatible with the others if applied in toto, key elements from each could be combined as part of a new approach that would enhance both risk mitigation and the prospects for a diplomatic resolution. In some respects, the Bush administration has already been moving in that direction, but this brief review of the North Korea debate suggests additional components worth considering.

To begin with, the United States and the other parties should hold regular meetings of the six-party talks regardless of North Korea’s attendance. North Korea should not be empowered to extract concessions merely for showing up at the talks. If Pyongyang refuses to attend the scheduled meeting, the United States should refuse direct bilateral talks. China has thus far resisted cornering Pyongyang in this way, but the October 9 nuclear test has shifted thinking in Beijing in important ways.

Second, the United States should take the lead with the other parties in formulating a five-party package to Pyongyang. Modeled on diplomacy with Iran, the United States and the other parties to the talks should present Pyongyang with a coordinated road map for implementing the September agreement as well as the consequences for noncompliance. As with the Iran package presented by the European Union to Tehran on June 1, the United States should be prepared to put incentives, such as enhanced high-level dialogue and specific details about security assurances and non-nuclear energy assistance, in the package. In exchange, China and South Korea would have to agree to join in punitive sanctions should North Korea refuse to comply or escalate further.

Third, the Bush administration should move forward with discussions on a broader peace mechanism as captured in the September 19, 2005, joint statement, but in tandem with Japan, China, Russia, and South Korea, should North Korea not be prepared to return to the talks with meaningful steps toward rolling back its nuclear weapons programs.

Fourth, the United States, Japan, and South Korea should revitalize the Trilateral Oversight and Coordination Group, which has been largely dormant for the past year. Close trilateral coordination among the allies is essential to building momentum toward better cooperation from China and Russia.

Fifth, the United States and the other parties should maintain robust momentum in implementing UN Security Council Resolutions 1540 and 1718. This means picking up the pace of PSI and other diplomatic measures aimed at interdicting North Korean illicit trade in missiles and WMD-related materials as well as of establishment of a network for information sharing and cooperation in the enforcement of the sanctions under these two resolutions. Chinese and South Korean reluctance to participate may evaporate after the North Korean nuclear test but might be won either way if Washington is prepared to put forward some of the diplomatic initiatives and offer bilateral negotiations under the conditions described earlier. In addition, the United States should continue expanding cooperation to crack down on North Korean money laundering, drug exports, and counterfeiting.

Sixth, the Bush administration should multilateralize human rights. The focus should be on establishing a consensus that improvement of the North Korean people’s deplorable condition is a universal goal. The center of gravity is the younger generation in South Korea. If the South Korean government speaks more clearly on human rights, North Korea will no longer be able to dismiss the issue as an American-made obstacle to diplomacy. A clear voice on human rights is not incompatible with the diplomatic process, but the strategy must focus on finding a way to cooperate with Seoul on human rights rather than simply proclaiming U.S. indignation.

Seventh, the United States should continue to reinforce extended deterrence. Pyongyang’s nuclear test requires expanded missile defense capabilities to buttress extended deterrence as well as renewed dialogue with Japan and South Korea (the latter will have to be handled delicately) to ensure that U.S. retaliation is reliable and credible. President George W. Bush’s clear statement reaffirming the U.S. nuclear umbrella was a good first start and that declaratory policy must continue to be reinforced. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s unequivocal declaration that Japan will not consider developing its own nuclear weapons followed directly from the U.S. statement and should also be repeatedly reinforced by Tokyo.

Finally, the United States and the other parties should expand dialogue on how unification or collapse might be managed in ways that protect the core interests of all the parties. Internal planning and bilateral discussions on how to manage the collapse of North Korea are not incompatible with diplomacy or deterrence, if handled discretely and, where necessary, i.e., with China, elliptically.

Although neither the six-party talks nor this expanded tool kit are likely to lead to a quick fix with North Korea—we should avoid the temptation of a quick fix above all else—the steps elucidated above would at least put the United States in a better position to mitigate risk and increase prospects for rolling back North Korea’s program. First and foremost, they would demonstrate that the United States has a sense of urgency about the problem, which is critical for shaping our allies’ own strategic decisions about how to respond to North Korea. Second, they would take the initiative away from Pyongyang by regularizing the six-party talks process. Third, they would accustom the other parties to working together to manage the Korean peninsula whether North Korea is helpful or even in existence. Finally, they would demonstrate to Pyongyang that failure to roll back the nuclear problem will have significant consequences, an important signal not only to Kim but to Iran and other potential proliferators.

 


Michael J. Green is a senior adviser and the Japan Chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and an associate professor of international relations at the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. He served as director and then senior director for Asian affairs on the National Security Council staff from 2001 through 2005.


ENDNOTES

1. Bureau of Arms Control, U.S. Department of State, Agreement on Reconciliation, Non-Aggression, and Exchanges and Cooperation Between the South and the North (to enter into force as of February 19, 1992).

2. Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Japan-DPRK Pyongyang Declaration, September 17, 2002 (signed in Pyongyang).

3. “Spokesman for DPRK Foreign Ministry on Six-Party Talks,” Korean Central News Agency, September 21, 2005.

4. Donald Gregg and Don Oberdorfer, “Wrong Path on North Korea,” The Washington Post, September 6, 2006, p. A15.

5. Ashton B. Carter and William J. Perry, “If Necessary, Strike and Destroy: North Korea Cannot Be Allowed to Test This Missile,” The Washington Post, June 22, 2006, p. A29.

6. Michael Gordon, “Threats and Responses: Asian Arena; U.S. Readies Plan to Raise Pressure on North Koreans,” The New York Times, September 29, 2002, p. A12.

7. Glenn Kessler, “ South Korea Offers to Supply Energy If North Korea Gives Up Arms,” The Washington Post, July 13, 2005, p. A16.

8. Ashton B. Carter and William J. Perry, Preventive Defense: A New Security Strategy for America (Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press, 1999); Leon V. Sigal, “North Korea Is No Iraq: Pyongyang’s Negotiating Strategy,” Arms Control Today, December 2002, p. 8-12.

9. See http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/rok/seoul.htm.

10. Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State, “UN Security Council Demands North Korea End Nuclear Program,” The Washington File, July 15, 2006.

North Korea’s steady march toward this test has left a trail of broken agreements and lost opportunities for greater interaction with the international community.

A Technical Analysis: Deconstructing North Korea’s October 9 Nuclear Test

Richard L. Garwin and Frank N. von Hippel

On October 9, North Korea announced that it had carried out an underground nuclear test. In subsequent days, the apparent low yield of the device and initial lack of reports of detection of radioactivity from the test raised questions about whether North Korea had actually tested a nuclear device or if a test had failed.

One week later, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence issued a statement confirming the detection of radioactive debris and stating that North Korea had conducted a nuclear explosion with a yield of less than 1 kiloton (1,000-ton TNT equivalent).[1] Our analysis of the available public information is consistant with this conclusion. We also judge that, although the test did not succeed as planned, North Korea might have been testing a lower-yield design than many commentators have assumed. This imperfect test may well lead North Korea to test again.

Our analysis concerns three questions: How powerful was the explosion? Was it a nuclear test? If nuclear, was the test successful?

How Powerful Was It?

North Korea reportedly informed China that it would be conducting a nuclear test, with a yield in the range of 4 kilotons.[2] Such an explosion in hard rock would produce a seismic event with a magnitude of about 4.9 on the Richter scale.[3] By contrast, the U.S. Geological Survey reported the explosion to have a seismic magnitude of 4.2.[4] South Korea’s state geology research center reported the magnitude as lower, between 3.58 and 3.7, and estimated a yield equivalent to 550 tons of TNT.[5] An uncertainty in seismic magnitude of 0.5 translates into a shift in yield of about a factor of 4.6. Compounding this uncertainty is that the relationship between seismic magnitude and yield depends on the hardness of the rock in which the explosive is buried.[6]

Given all these uncertainties, it is not surprising that a range of yields has been reported. Terry Wallace, a seismologist at Los Alamos National Laboratory, based on an unclassified analysis of open data, estimates a yield of between 0.5 and 2 kilotons, with 90 percent confidence that the yield is less than 1 kiloton.[7] Lynn R. Sykes of Columbia University estimates a yield of 0.4 kilotons, with 68 percent confidence that the yield is between 0.2 and 0.7 kilotons and a 95 percent probability that the yield is less than 1 kiloton.[8] One notable by-product of the test is that it has demonstrated that university and other independent seismic detection systems, as well as those of governments and the International Monitoring System of the Vienna-based Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization, very effectively detect underground explosions in the subkiloton range.

Was It a Nuclear Test?

From the seismic data alone, the source might have been an explosion of a mixture of ammonium nitrate and fuel oil (ANFO), an inexpensive explosive used in mining all over the world. Five hundred tons of ANFO would fill the last 60 meters of a tunnel with a height and width of about 3 meters.

The radioactivity detected in the atmosphere of the region two days after the explosion could strengthen the evidence that it was indeed a nuclear test. No information has been made public about the nature of the radioactivity that has been detected. If a nuclear test occurred, however, particulate matter and gases might have been vented at the time of the test, or radioactive gases might subsequently have seeped out through the cracks in the rocks above the explosion.

We focus here on two radioactive xenon isotopes, Xe-133 and Xe-135, with half-lives of about five days and 0.4 days, respectively, that are often detected after underground tests. Xenon is chemically unreactive, like helium, and therefore does not plate out on the surfaces of cracks in the rock or get scrubbed out of the atmosphere by rain. We assume that the weapon was made of plutonium. North Korea is known to have enough plutonium to make at least several Nagasaki-type weapons, although it is alleged also to have a clandestine uranium-enrichment program.[9] The ratio of the production of Xe-135 and Xe-133 in plutonium fission is known. Because the Xe-135 decays much more rapidly, the ratio of their concentrations in the plume provides a rough measure of the number of Xe-135 half-lives and therefore the time since the test.[10]

It would require the fission of about 60 grams of plutonium to produce a yield of 1 kiloton. That much fission would produce about 2 grams each of Xe-133 and Xe-135. Because of their radioactivity, these xenon isotopes can be detected at levels of about 1,000 and 100 atoms per cubic meter of air respectively.

Martin Kalinowski has provided us with a calculated trajectory of the first gas that might have been released by the test. By the end of the third day, he estimates that the plume would have traveled about 1,000 kilometers in a zig-zag track over the Sea of Japan.[11] At that point, the plume might be 1 kilometer high by 200 kilometers wide. If the radioactive xenon produced by a 1-kiloton underground explosion were released into the atmosphere at a typical rate of 0.1 percent per day of the undecayed xenon, the concentration of Xe-133 and Xe-135 in the plume would still be 100 and 10 times above the detection limit respectively. If the ratio of Xe-133 and Xe-135 concentrations was consistent with the time of the explosion, that would verify that it was nuclear.

Indeed, detection of Xe-133 alone after even a week or more could in itself confirm the nuclear nature of the explosion, but its trajectory would have to be “backcast” to make sure that it was not due to leakage from reactors in South Korea or Japan. Much more could be learned if particles as well as gas leaked from the explosion, including its yield and whether it truly was a plutonium device.[12]

Was It a Successful Test?

Much has been made of the apparently low yield of the North Korean test in comparison to the first U.S. plutonium explosive, the Nagasaki bomb, which had a yield of about 20 kilotons. In the Nagasaki bomb, tons of high explosive served to implode a solid subcritical sphere of plutonium to a higher density to make it supercritical. If Pyongyang tried to replicate the Nagasaki design, it is indeed likely that something went wrong.

Before the Nagasaki bomb was used in August 1945, J. Robert Oppenheimer, who directed the bomb-design effort at Los Alamos, wrote to General Leslie Groves, the overall head of the U.S. nuclear-weapon effort, that there was a 2 percent chance that the yield could be lower than 1 kiloton.[13] This would happen if a neutron started the chain reaction just when the plutonium first became critical, 10 millionths of a second before it reached its maximum supercriticality. The reason was that there was a 2 percent probability that the plutonium would produce a neutron spontaneously and start the chain reaction early. Other possibilities in the North Korean test are that extra neutrons might have been generated by the alpha particles from plutonium decays interacting with light-element impurities or the neutron initiator might have been mistimed and fired too early or too late.

The fact that the weapon designers predicted a 4-kiloton yield suggests, however, that they were not aiming for the Nagasaki design. The Nagasaki bomb weighed about 4 tons, much more than could be lifted by any North Korean missile. Perhaps North Korea’s weapon designers tried to go directly to a weapon in the 500-1,000-kilogram class that could reach South Korea on a Scud missile, Japan on a Nodong missile, or the United States on a Scud launched from an offshore merchant ship.

A 4-kiloton or even a 1-kiloton explosive would still be a terrifying weapon. Recall that the 1995 Oklahoma City explosion involved only a few tons of ANFO. A 1-kiloton bomb could kill people in an area of about one square mile and partially destroy a much larger area.[14] Most of these deaths would be from fire or from the prompt nuclear radiation.

If, as the seismologists have concluded, the yield of the explosion was much less than the design yield, North Korea can have little faith in its nuclear-weapon stockpile. It is likely that its weapons team will regroup. The North Korean government has already raised the possibility of a second test.[15]


Richard L. Garwin is an IBM fellow emeritus at the IBM Thomas J. Watson Research Center, Yorktown Heights, New York, and Frank N. von Hippel is a professor of public and international affairs at Princeton University.


Nuclear Forensics and the North Korean Test

Harold Smith

The power and versatility of nuclear forensics, particularly radio-chemical techniques, could not have been better demonstrated than by its application to the recent underground test in North Korea.[1] Some might have thought that all the debris from the explosion would have been contained in the underground cavity. After all, that was the original purpose of testing underground.

In fact, any nuclear explosion creates radioactive noble gases, notably xenon and krypton, that do not combine with other elements in the geologic structure. Therefore, they can more easily leak to the surface and into the atmosphere where they can be detected beyond national boundaries. Because at least two different gases escape, it is possible for radio-chemists to determine if the fissile material was plutonium or uranium, which of course is exactly what happened. (Press reports said the material was plutonium.)[2] Unfortunately, the chemists cannot determine much more. If there has not been direct venting to the atmosphere, they will not be able to answer the mystery of why Pyongyang’s device seems to have produced such a low nuclear yield, reportedly less than one kiloton, or less than 5 percent of the yield of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs.

The same would not be true if a nuclear weapon were exploded above ground. Then, the debris would be unfiltered, and much more critical information could be obtained, such as the sophistication of its design and whether there exists a stockpile containing fissile material with similar isotopes. The last should be a key consideration for North Korea or any other government that might contemplate providing nuclear materials to terrorists.

Thanks to the inspections associated with implementation of the 1994 Agreed Framework, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and/or the United States may possess the isotopic data of the North Korean plutonium. North Korea must be made aware that use of its fissile material can be traced to Pyongyang and that it must anticipate the retribution that would follow if any of its weapons or fissile material should be used by any of its accomplices or customers. Perhaps, this is the time for the Bush administration to speak directly to the North Korean government and make this clear.

Pyongyang might conclude that President George W. Bush was not making an idle boast when he said October 9 that “the transfer of nuclear weapons or material by North Korea to states or non-state entities would be considered a grave threat to the United States, and we would hold North Korea fully accountable of the consequences of such action” One can hope, therefore, that forensic science combined with strong and credible diplomacy can deter North Korea from passing plutonium to terrorists or to other countries.


Harold Smith is a distinguished visiting scholar and professor at the Goldman School of Public Policy, University of California at Berkeley. He served as assistant to the secretary of defense for nuclear, chemical, and biological defense programs during the Clinton administration.


ENDNOTES

1. For more information on nuclear forensics, see William Dunlop and Harold Smith, “Who Did It? Using International Forensics to Detect and Deter Nuclear Terrorism,” Arms Control Today, October 2006, pp. 6-10.

2. David Sanger, “North Korean Fuel Identified as Plutonium,” The New York Times, October 17, 2006, p. A-11.

 

ENDNOTES

1. “Analysis of air samples collected on October 11, 2006 detected radioactive debris which confirms that North Korea conducted an underground nuclear explosion in the vicinity of P’unggye on October 9, 2006. The explosion yield was less than a kiloton.” Office of the Director of National Intelligence, “Statement by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence,” press release, October 16, 2006, http://www.odni.gov/announcements/20061016_release.pdf.

2. Mark Mazzetti, “Preliminary Samples Hint at North Korean Nuclear Test,” The New York Times, October 14, 2006.

3. For a stable tectonic setting such as Novaya Zemlya, the relationship between explosive yield Y (in kilotons) and magnitude (mb) is approximately mb = 4.45 + 0.75 log Y. See http://www.iris.edu/news/IRISnewsletter/fallnews/political.html. For other Mb-Y relationships, see Lynn R. Sykes and Göran Ekström, “Comparison of Seismic and Hydrodynamic Yield Determinations for the Soviet Joint Verification Experiment of 1988,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA, Vol. 86, May 1989, p. 3456. According to this paper, for a low-yield test in hard rock or below the water table, a 0.5 increase in Mb would translate into an increase in yield by a factor of about three.

4. The coordinates are given as 41.294 N, 129.094 E, and the depth is given as shallow. See U.S. Geological Survey, “Magnitude 4.2 – North Korea,” http://earthquake.usgs.gov/eqcenter/recenteqsww/Quakes/ustqab.php.

5. Lee Chi-dong, “N. Korea Claims Success in Nuclear Test,” Yonhap News, October 9, 2006.

6. Lynn R. Sykes, “Dealing With Decoupled Nuclear Explosions Under a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty,” in Monitoring a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, eds. E. S. Husebye and A. M. Dainty (Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1995).

7. Terry Wallace, personal communication with authors, October 14, 2006.

8. Lynn R. Sykes, personal communication with authors, October 15, 2006.

9. North Korea produced an estimated 30-40 kilograms of plutonium prior to 1994. See David Albright and Kevin O’Neill, Solving the North Korean Nuclear Puzzle ( Institute of Science and International Security Press, 2000). Siegfried Hecker, a former director of the Los Alamos National Laboratory, visited North Korea in January 2004 and August 2005. According to Hecker, he was told during his first visit that North Korea had reprocessed all the pre-1994 spent fuel stored at its Yongbyon plutonium-production reactor. During his second visit, he was told that reprocessing of fuel that had been irradiated from February 2003 through March 2005 was almost complete. (Between 1994 and 2003, the reactor was shut down by an agreement brokered by former President Jimmy Carter.) See Paul Kerr, “ North Korea Increasing Weapons Capabilities,” Arms Control Today, December 2005, pp. 33-34.

10. Martin Kalinowski, “Characterization of Prompt and Delayed Atmospheric Radioactivity Releases From Underground Nuclear Tests at Nevada as a Function of Release Time” (unpublished). See also Martin Kalinowski, et al., Preparation of a Global Radioxenon Emission Inventory: Understanding Sources of Radioactive Xenon Routinely Found in the Atmosphere by the International Monitoring System for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, Arms Control Disarmament and International Security Research Report, University of Illinois, December 2005.

11. Martin Kalinowski, personal communication with authors, October 12, 2006.

12. Press reports suggest that such evidence has been obtained but give no specifics. Thom Shanker and David Sanger, “North Korean Fuel Identified as Plutonium,” The New York Times, October 17, 2006. At press time, the South Korean government announced that it had detected radioactive xenon from the North Korean test, The Associated Press, October 25, 2006.

13. Albert Wohlstetter, “Spreading the Bomb Without Quite Breaking the Rules,” Foreign Policy 25, (Winter 1976-77), p. 160.

14. Richard L. Garwin, “Nuclear and Biological Megaterrorsim,” August 21, 2002, http://www.fas.org/rlg/020821-terrorism.htm.

15. “N. Korea Raises Threat of New Test,” BBC, October 11, 2006, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/6039438.stm.

Number Nine

Daryl G. Kimball

North Korea’s October 9 nuclear test explosion could cause irreparable damage to an already beleaguered global nonproliferation system. Unless the world’s ninth active nuclear weapons program is verifiably halted and reversed through more effective diplomacy, the test may be the tipping point that prompts other states to follow suit. The blast should also trigger far more energetic action to tighten global nuclear nonproliferation standards and ensure universal compliance with those already on the books.

UN Security Council Resolution 1718 rightly condemns North Korea for its half-kiloton yield nuclear blast and calls for its return to the negotiating table. North Korea’s leaders now say they will rejoin six-party talks on their nuclear program. If they do, the Bush administration must seize what could be the last best opportunity to check Pyongyang’s nuclear capabilities. It must finally engage in genuine diplomacy to implement the step-by-step process of verifiable disarmament in exchange for normalized relations as outlined in a joint statement last year.

After six-years and four previous rounds of inclusive six-party talks, there can be little doubt that the Bush administration’s approach has failed: Pyongyang has hunkered-down and accelerated its nuclear bomb program. Punitive sanctions alone cannot reverse its nuclear program or force the collapse of the already-isolated Kim Jong Il regime. Nor do North Korea’s insecure leaders appear capable of making a bold, Libya-like decision to completely eliminate their nuclear weapons program for fear it would jeopardize the regime’s survival.

For now, North Korea possesses fissile material for fewer than a dozen bombs. It is not yet capable of delivering working nuclear warheads on its ballistic missiles. Such a threat is still deterrable without the United States or other countries resorting to nuclear weapons threats. But if the crisis continues to be mismanaged and Pyongyang’s nuclear arsenal grows, Tokyo and Seoul will seriously consider building their own nuclear weapons. Japan, with its large stockpile of “civilian” plutonium and new plutonium reprocessing plant, is a virtual nuclear-weapon state. If it were to withdraw from the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) and exercise its capability, South Korea would likely do so too, and China would likely increase its arsenal of some 100 weapons.

To head off this proliferation nightmare, President George W. Bush must finally recognize that dialogue with adversaries such as North Korea is not a reward for bad behavior, but a vital tool to deal with nuclear dangers. U.S. officials should be authorized to meet separately with North Korean officials to resolve issues of concern, including U.S. financial sanctions imposed on North Korea in reaction to its money laundering activities.

To keep North Korea at the negotiating table, China’s leaders must also exert maximum diplomatic and economic influence on Pyongyang. To improve the chances that North Korea will deliver on disarmament, China, Japan, Russia, South Korea, and the United States must clarify not only the costs of further defiance but the benefits of cooperation. They should develop a detailed proposal outlining the security assurances, trade benefits, and energy support that they would be prepared to provide if North Korea dismantles its nuclear complex. The first priority should be to reinstate a verifiable freeze on Pyongyang’s plutonium production, which would limit the amount of fissile material for weapons and possibly for sale to others.

The emergence of North Korea as the world’s ninth nuclear-weapon state is yet another reminder that we can no longer afford to lurch from one nuclear crisis to the next. The current U.S. policy of isolating “unfriendly” states to try to prevent proliferation while permitting “friendly” states to possess and improve their nuclear arsenals is unsustainable and a recipe for nuclear anarchy.

Today’s security environment requires a more comprehensive and balanced U.S. nonproliferation and disarmament strategy. To prevent the emergence of additional virtual nuclear-weapon states, all states should observe an indefinite moratorium on all new uranium-enrichment and plutonium-separation plants. To cap the size of existing arsenals, all states with nuclear weapons, including India, Pakistan, and Israel, should halt the production of fissile material for weapons and join the global nuclear test ban regime.

Finally, major nuclear-weapon states must restore confidence they will fulfill their NPT obligation to reduce the number and role of nuclear weapons and eventually eliminate them. The United States and Russia should resume talks on further verifiable reductions of their strategic and tactical nuclear arsenals, which will still number more than 5,000 warheads each by 2012. All nuclear-weapon states should disavow the development of new types of nuclear weapons and the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear-weapon states and targets. This would reduce the incentives for other states to develop their own nuclear weapons.

Ambitious? Yes. But the dangers of the bomb are growing. Without more comprehensive global leadership in all, not just some, of these areas, the struggle against nuclear proliferation will fall short and leave behind a more dangerous world for generations to come.

Nuclear Suppliers Updated on U.S.-Indian Deal

Wade Boese

Indian officials recently met for the first time with representatives of nuclear supplier states to sell them on a controversial U.S.-Indian deal to expand global civilian nuclear commerce with India. But New Delhi failed to address all the concerns and questions group members have raised.

The 45 members of the voluntary Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) met Oct. 11-12 in Vienna for a regular Consultative Group meeting to assess worldwide nuclear developments. Participating governments seek to coordinate their nuclear export controls to prevent commercial transfers from abetting nuclear weapons programs.

The group convened two days after North Korea announced its first nuclear test and authorized an Oct. 12 statement urging all countries to “exercise extreme vigilance” to prevent trade that might benefit Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program.

The NSG’s origins go back to another test: India’s 1974 nuclear blast, which used plutonium produced by a Canadian-supplied reactor using U.S.-origin heavy water designated for peaceful purposes. Several countries formed the group the following year to enact stricter export standards.

In 1992, at the instigation of the United States, the NSG adopted a rule applying to all but the five recognized nuclear-weapon states—China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States—under the 1968 nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). The dictate said that, for other countries to enjoy full nuclear trade, they must open up their entire nuclear enterprises to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which is charged with enforcing safeguard agreements. India, which has never signed the NPT, refused, resulting in NSG members significantly limiting exports to India. The IAEA safeguards agreements help verify that countries do not exploit civilian nuclear facilities, materials, and technologies to build bombs.

As part of their July 2005 initiative to expand nuclear trade, Washington and New Delhi are seeking to persuade the NSG to exempt India from the 1992 rule. (See ACT, September 2005.) Several group members, including France, Russia, South Africa, and the United Kingdom, have expressed their support. Some suppliers, however, worry that exempting India might send the wrong signal to other countries that have accepted the NPT basic bargain of forswearing nuclear weapons in return for full civilian nuclear trade. They contend that some states might reconsider their restraint if India is granted the same trade privileges while retaining and possibly expanding its nuclear arsenal.

Indian officials made their case Oct. 12 to the group. The confidential presentation, which reportedly stressed India’s need for nuclear energy and determination not to cap its nuclear weapons sector, did not assuage all the concerns of critics and skeptics, two NSG member officials told Arms Control Today in separate October interviews.

Suppliers conducted no vote on the U.S.-Indian initiative. The group, which operates by consensus, typically makes decisions at a once-a-year plenary; the next one is scheduled for April in South Africa.

Much remains unsettled about the U.S.-Indian deal, so the NSG may not face an April decision. Congress has not passed legislation changing U.S. law to authorize full civilian nuclear trade with India. In addition, the IAEA and New Delhi have not started negotiations on the duration and scope of the agency’s oversight because India is balking at the notion of permanent IAEA safeguards for its entire civilian nuclear sector. (See ACT, October 2006.)

Moreover, U.S. and Indian negotiators have not completed the so-called 123 agreement, which codifies the terms of U.S. nuclear trade with a foreign state. Such an agreement is required by section 123 of the Atomic Energy Act of 1954. Negotiators first met in June but have not reconvened. New Delhi has been waiting on Congress to pass a final bill on the deal, which could occur in November or December.

Suppliers also failed at the October meeting to align on two additional proposals. One calls for criteria to govern exports of uranium-enrichment and plutonium reprocessing technologies, both of which can be used to produce nuclear fuel or fissile material for nuclear bombs. The other would block nuclear trade with a country unless it had enacted an additional protocol delegating the IAEA greater powers to uncover illicit activity.

 

Congress Approves Iran, NK Measures

Miles A. Pomper

Lawmakers in late September approved measures granting the executive branch new authority to punish North Korea and Iran for their missile and nuclear programs. But Congress also endorsed measures that would require intelligence agencies to provide a new definitive assessment of Iran’s capabilities and that call on the president to establish a North Korea policy czar.

The measures came amid increasing tensions with both countries.

On Sept. 28 and 30, respectively, the House and Senate easily approved the Iran Freedom Support Act, which alters existing sanctions on Iran and extends them for another five years. President George W. Bush Sept. 30 signed the legislation, which was watered down considerably from an earlier House-passed bill. The House bill had run into objections from the Senate and the White House. (See ACT, July/August 2006.)

The final measure codifies sanctions that had been placed on Iran by executive orders in the 1990s and earlier this decade. Congressional approval will therefore be required before they could be lifted in the future.

The bill also included nonbinding language calling on the administration not to enter into a civil nuclear cooperation agreement with any country that is assisting Tehran’s nuclear program or transferring advanced conventional arms or missiles to Iran. That provision was clearly aimed at Russia, which is seeking such an agreement with the United States. (See ACT, September 2006.) Russia is building a nuclear reactor in Bushehr, Iran, and has been a longtime arms supplier to Tehran.

Russian officials said the legislation would not deter them from moving ahead with the Bushehr project. “There are things that are more important than bilateral [U.S.-Russian] cooperation, including respect for international law,” Nikolay N. Spasskiy, deputy head of the Russian Federal Atomic Energy Agency, told a Washington audience of experts Oct. 3.

Spasskiy noted that deliveries of fuel to Bushehr were set to begin next year. “If in the interim there are no international restrictions on proceeding with Bushehr, we will go ahead,” he vowed.

The measure will also permit administration officials to designate as “primary money laundering concerns” entities involved in the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction or missiles.

The Bush administration already has authority under the USA PATRIOT Act to target other concerns, such as drug trafficking, terrorism, and counterfeiting. In one case that has had an indirect effect on nonproliferation, the administration used the authority to target Banco Delta Asia, a Macau-based bank that allegedly helped North Korea by distributing counterfeit U.S. currency and laundering money gained from illicit activities such as drug trafficking.

In that case, the Department of the Treasury more than a year ago proposed a rule that, if adopted, would bar U.S. financial institutions from opening or maintaining accounts for Banco Delta Asia. The rule has yet to be adopted or withdrawn, but in the interim, U.S. officials have successfully put pressure on Macau to take action against the bank.

North Korea has cited the action against the Macau bank as a reason for refusing to attend six-party talks aimed at ending its nuclear program.

In another congressional action, the House Sept. 30 unanimously approved adding North Korea to existing legislation that punishes foreigners who transfer goods and technologies to Syria and Iran that could contribute to their ability to produce missiles and nuclear weapons. The Bush administration has imposed these sanctions dozens of times. The Senate had passed the measure in July after a series of missile tests by Pyongyang. (See ACT, September 2006.)

Lawmakers also included two provisions proposed by Senate Democrats in the fiscal year 2007 defense appropriations bill that will apply to Iran and North Korea. Fiscal year 2007 began Oct. 1.

One provision seeks to avoid a repeat of the flawed intelligence presented to Congress prior to their authorization of the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq that claimed the existence of chemical and biological weapons programs in that country and alleged that Saddam Hussein’s regime was attempting to revive Iraq’s nuclear weapons program. The bill language would require the director of national intelligence to provide an updated comprehensive national intelligence estimate on Iran. Such estimates are intended to be the intelligence community’s most authoritative product.

Another provision requires the president to appoint a senior presidential adviser to conduct a full review of U.S. policy toward North Korea, including consultations with foreign governments. The measure is similar to legislation passed in the late 1990s that led to the appointment of former Secretary of Defense William Perry as special adviser to the president and secretary of state for the review of U.S. policy toward North Korea.

Bush signed the bill Oct. 13.

 

North Korea Interdiction Option Limited

Wade Boese

Reacting to North Korea’s first nuclear test, the UN Security Council Oct. 14 insisted that all countries prevent Pyongyang from trafficking in unconventional arms, major conventional weapons, and luxury goods. But the council did not give world capitals expanded or new powers to fulfill this mission, so how effectively it will be carried out is unclear.

Approved unanimously, Security Council Resolution 1718 establishes a sanctions regime calling for “inspection of cargo to and from” North Korea, but it leaves it up to governments to determine how to exploit their existing authorities and capabilities under current international law. Inspections, the council noted, are to occur “in accordance with [each country’s] national authorities and legislation, and consistent with international law.”

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice repeatedly sought to put this aspect of the resolution in perspective during an Oct. 17-22 visit to China, Japan, Russia, and South Korea. “We’re not talking about the Cuban missile crisis here with a blockade or quarantine,” she said in an Oct. 20 interview with KBS News of South Korea. Similarly, Rice told reporters at the outset of her trip, “We’re not looking [at] inspecting every ship.”

At many of her appearances, Rice pointed out that the resolution obliges every government to deny North Korean exports or imports of proscribed items, but she also said specific steps would vary. Possible measures, she stated, could include increased intelligence sharing, denying planes overflight rights, detaining vessels in ports, searching cargo trucks at borders, or conducting radiation detection sweeps of cargo.

Rice further stressed that the measures had to be lawful. “I would not make the argument that [the resolution] somehow radically changes the international legal foundation,” she stated Oct. 17.

Rice’s consistent refrain on the restricted nature of the resolution coincided with statements by U.S. officials and media reports linking or comparing the instrument to the U.S.-led Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI). Launched in May 2003 to intercept suspicious cargo in transit, the initiative has enlisted about 80 countries. Yet, it also has detractors and skeptics, such as China, India, Indonesia, and South Korea, that have questioned its legality and purpose.

To be sure, the initiative’s participants regularly say it is grounded in international law. Indeed, Rice described PSI in the KBS News interview as a “voluntary association of countries that use authorities that they already have within their national authorities and international law.”

International law limits inspection and interdiction options outside a government’s jurisdiction, such as planes flying in international airspace or ships sailing on the high seas. For instance, vessels in international waters can be stopped and searched only if they lack a proper flag or are suspected of piracy, slavery, or illegal broadcasting. A government has more leeway if a suspicious ship is passing through that country’s territorial seas, which extend 12 nautical miles from the coastline, or its contiguous zone, which reaches out to 24 nautical miles.

Another option for boarding ships in international waters is to get the consent of the government whose flag the ship is flying. Some countries permit their flags, known as flags of convenience, to be flown by foreign ships for a fee. Such ships account for a substantial portion of the global oceangoing fleet.

As part of PSI, the United States has concluded bilateral boarding agreements with Belize, Croatia, Cyprus, Liberia, the Marshall Islands, and Panama. These agreements set out expedited procedures for the United States to request the right to stop and search a ship. A request is treated as approved if no reply is received within two hours.

After concluding the latest such agreement with Belize in August 2005, the Department of State claimed that the combination of its boarding agreements plus the commitments of PSI partners made “more than 60 percent of the global commercial shipping fleet dead weight tonnage…subject to rapid action consent procedures for boarding, search, and seizure.” Washington is seeking to negotiate additional agreements.

Still, North Korea can skirt the reach of PSI by scrupulously conducting its trade via vehicles and territories of countries outside the initiative. These are the gaps that U.S. officials hope Resolution 1718 will fill.

The effectiveness of the resolution, however, hinges on states’ attitudes about employing their national authorities to clamp down on North Korea. China and South Korea, Pyongyang’s two largest trading partners, have sent mixed signals on how aggressively they will act.

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld acknowledged Oct. 11 the difficulties in getting a sanctions regime to work. He noted that it requires countries to share a “relatively common threat assessment” and a willingness to “forgo commercial opportunities in exchange for security interests.” A week later, Rumsfeld described stopping proliferation as “one of the hardest things” to do, contending success requires “a lot of countries cooperating with a high degree of cohesion.”

Although cautious, Rice expressed optimism that countries, including China, were coalescing against North Korea. “I don’t expect that overnight you’re going to have a 180-degree turn in the China-North Korea relationship,” she said Oct. 21. “But,” Rice added, “that [ China] would in fact subject the North Koreans to international sanctions and brand their behavior a threat to international peace and security, I do think that’s a pretty significant turn.”

Robert Gallucci, who was the chief U.S. negotiator of the 1994 Agreed Framework to freeze North Korea’s graphite-moderated nuclear reactor, contends sanctions will fail. “Sanctions, always limited by what China would permit, will not force North Korean compliance and amount to a policy of containment or acceptance of a growing North Korean nuclear-weapons program,” Gallucci wrote in the Oct. 23 issue of TIME.

All countries are called on to report within 30 days to a Security Council committee on the steps they have taken to implement the resolution. That panel is supposed to report to the Security Council at least every 90 days on its assessment of and recommendations to strengthen the sanctions.

NEWS ANALYSIS: The Growing Nuclear Fuel-Cycle Debate

Oliver Meier reporting from Vienna

A series of nuclear-related crises and a growing interest by several countries in nuclear energy production has revived interest in ways to prevent the spread of nuclear technologies that can be easily misused for the production of nuclear weapons materials.

Since the dawn of the nuclear age, governments have cast about for ways to manage the dual-use nature of nuclear technology. In the 1970s and 1980s, several proposals were discussed for creating an international framework to govern uranium enrichment and plutonium reprocessing, but none were implemented.

However, these concerns have taken on a new life as fears have grown that Iran may misuse its nuclear fuel-cycle facilities to produce nuclear weapons materials and after Pakistani nuclear scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan’s clandestine nuclear black market network was unmasked.

Against this background, countries such as Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States, as well as the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and nongovernmental organizations such as the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI) and the World Nuclear Association (WNA) are offering novel suggestions on how to rein in this dual-use technology. Although they have yet to agree on a plan, a late September IAEA General Conference and Special Event on the subject indicated growing convergence about the way forward. Most proposals take a cue from IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei and offer various means to establish multilateral control over the nuclear fuel cycle.

The Consensus

First, the proposals generally agree that any fuel-supply mechanism should not disturb the international market for nuclear fuel services. Currently, four large commercial entities provide low-enriched uranium (LEU) for nuclear power: Urenco, managed jointly by Germany, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom; Eurodif, a multinational company headquartered in France; the United States Enrichment Corporation; and Tenex, based in Russia. Together, these providers currently produce enough LEU to satisfy global demand.

LEU can be manufactured into fuel for light-water reactors, by far the most common type of reactor in use globally.

Many of the proposals seek to ensure the market neutrality of a future supply mechanism by designing it as a “reserve” that would be tapped only if supply is interrupted.

Second, advocates concur that the establishment of multilateral fuel-cycle arrangements should be implemented step by step. The front end of the nuclear fuel cycle, that is, the supply of nuclear fuel and in particular LEU for power production, is seen as the most urgent issue to be addressed. How to deal with the back end—nuclear waste and reprocessing of spent fuel—should be addressed at a later stage.

Third, there seems to be broad agreement that having a diverse set of complementary “fuel reserves” may be better than relying on a single source of supply.

Fourth, setting up stockpiles of LEU is seen as more practical than establishing stockpiles of fabricated nuclear fuel. Fuel assemblies are manufactured to the specifications of every reactor type and sometimes specifically for each reactor, making a fuel bank containing nuclear fuel for all possible recipients impractical.

Beyond these shared characteristics, a variety of unique proposals have been advanced.

Global Visions: U.S. and Russian Proposals

The United States and Russia have offered the most far-reaching visions for a global supply mechanism. Both have offered to provide a range of nuclear energy services ranging from fuel supply to fuel take-back and reprocessing.

Under the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP), launched in January by the United States, countries that renounce fuel-cycle activities would become eligible to receive U.S. nuclear fuel. Assistant Secretary for Nuclear Energy Dennis R. Spurgeon explained Sept. 19 at the IAEA special event that “the purpose of GNEP is to facilitate the safe, secure, and economic expansion of nuclear energy.” It intends to accomplish this by developing and providing novel, proliferation-resistant nuclear technologies as well as fresh fuel and spent-fuel management, with a particular focus on developing countries.

Spurgeon also provided additional details about a separate U.S. offer to down-blend 17.4 tons of highly enriched uranium (HEU) removed from the U.S. defense program and set the resulting LEU aside in a domestically held reserve, a proposal first announced a year ago. Such a stock, equivalent to six to eight core refuelings of an average light-water reactor, could complement reserves established under control of the IAEA, Spurgeon said. Gregory Schulte, the U.S. ambassador to the IAEA, said in a Sept. 20 interview with Arms Control Today that the United States is not willing to consider making this material part of an international stockpile because U.S. law requires national control over such material. Schulte conceded that, “for some countries, that will provide reassurance, but for others, perhaps it won’t.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Jan. 25 announced the Global Nuclear Power Infrastructure (GNPI) to provide nuclear power services through a network of international nuclear fuel-cycle centers (INFCC). In an article in the September 2006 issue of the IAEA Bulletin, S. V. Ruchkin and Vladimir Loginov of Tenex said that GNPI-INFCC “is aimed primarily at countries who are developing nuclear power but not planning to establish indigenous uranium-enrichment and [spent nuclear fuel] reprocessing capabilities.” Access would be restricted to countries “meeting established non-proliferation requirements.”

Russia, which apparently has huge surplus uranium-enrichment capacities, boasts that its proposal can be implemented quickly. In a presentation at the IAEA event, Ruchkin emphasized that “key preconditions” for setting up an international enrichment facility “are supposed to be provided by the end of the year.” An international uranium-enrichment center will be established at the Angarsk Electrolysis Chemical Complex, in the city of Angarsk in east Siberia, and could start operating in 2007, he said.

As with GNEP, Russian officials also hope that the centers eventually house reactors with a new proliferation-resistant means of burning some of the elements in spent fuel for additional energy, according to other Russian experts.

Although no decision has been made on the exact legal basis for such a center, membership in the consortium would clearly guarantee access to its services and products but not the technology itself. The center itself would be run by Russia.

The Six-Parties Proposal

In June, the six states that operate the largest, commercial enrichment facilities presented a joint Concept for a Multilateral Mechanism for Reliable Access to Nuclear Fuel (RANF). France, Germany, the Netherlands, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States proposed to establish a “last resort safety net” to address potential supply problems. The initiative is vague on specifics but offers a “multi-tiered set of measures” to establish both basic assurances as well as a reserve of enriched uranium that could serve as a backup mechanism in case supplies were interrupted for nontechnical and noncommercial reasons. The IAEA would play the role of an arbiter and also be responsible for making technical judgments about the eligibility of access to the mechanism. The proposal has become a kind of umbrella under which more specific fuel-bank ideas have been advanced.

Limited Proposals

In May 2006, the WNA, a private-sector alliance of major nuclear power enterprises, issued an expert group report that recommended a layered approach to enrichment fuel services. At first, interruptions of supply would be addressed through normal market procedures. If these mechanisms fail and if the IAEA finds that an enrichment contract has been breached for bilateral political reasons unrelated to nonproliferation, it would intervene and invoke collective guarantees by enrichers and thus assure the supply of nuclear fuel from other sources. Should it still be impossible to solve the supply problem, nationally held stocks of enriched uranium product, such as that proposed by the United States, could be used to fill any possible gap. In order to be market neutral, such material could be produced by down-blending HEU stocks from former military stocks.

The most novel offer under discussion in Vienna was the announcement by the privately funded NTI to donate $50 million, provided by NTI adviser and U.S. billionaire Warren Buffet, to create an LEU stockpile owned and managed by the IAEA. NTI would donate the money under two conditions: that within two years, one or several IAEA member states contribute an additional $100 million, and that the agency take “the necessary actions to approve establishment of this reserve,” former Senator and NTI Co-Chairman Sam Nunn said Sept. 19. “Every other element of the arrangement,” Nunn emphasized, “would be up to the IAEA and its member states to decide.”

Still, Laura Holgate, vice president for the Russia/New Independent States Programs at NTI, offered some ideas “in order to advance the discussion of an IAEA fuel reserve.” According to Holgate, NTI believes that such a reserve should be in the form of uranium hexaflouride enriched to a level of 4.9 percent, which is a typical enrichment level for reactor fuel. The initial $150 million would be sufficient to purchase 50-60 metric tons of such materials, the equivalent of one loading of a standard power reactor.

“In order to be seen as a true backup to an extant commercial fuel service contract,” the stockpile would have to be physically placed outside the current six supplier states, Holgate argued.

NTI President Charles Curtis, who chaired the IAEA special event, emphasized in a Sept. 28 interview with Arms Control Today that NTI wanted to shift the discussion from setting conditions to providing assurances for states to dissuade countries from investing in domestic fuel-cycle capabilities. “You’re not going to have states trading away their rights to technology,” Curtis stated.

On Sept. 12, Japan proposed an IAEA Standby Arrangements System for the Assurance of Nuclear Fuel Supply. The proposal is supposed to complement the six-party proposal in two ways. First, Japan’s proposal suggests addressing all front-end nuclear fuel-cycle activities, from uranium mining to fuel fabrication. Secondly, Japan suggests establishing an early warning mechanism operated by the IAEA. The agency would collect and analyze declarations of all participating supplier states and, based on those reports, alert member states of imminent market failures.

In a different take on the idea of fuel-supply assurances, the United Kingdom suggested issuing ”enrichment bonds” as a means of guaranteeing enrichment services. These bonds would be legal arrangements between the supplier state and company, the recipient state and the IAEA that “would guarantee that, subject to compliance with international law and to meeting the nonproliferation commitments to be assessed by the IAEA, national enrichment providers will not be prevented from supplying the recipient state with enrichment services in the event the guarantee is invoked.”

The thrust of the proposal is to increase the confidence that export approvals will be given by placing the final judgment on the export of LEU in the hands of the IAEA and that other issues or political considerations will not stand in the way of nuclear trade. According to notes on its policy that British officials distributed for the special IAEA meeting, such an approach would “significantly limit the criteria upon which export approvals are normally based (to include only nonproliferation considerations)” but argues that “governments must ultimately be prepared to relinquish some rights in exchange for a broader nonproliferation gain.”

Germany also joined the debate with a late and ambitious proposal. In a Sept. 18 interview with the German daily Handelsblatt, Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, noting that the IAEA statute provided for the agency to build and operate its own nuclear facilities, proposed to place “multilateral uranium enrichment under the auspices of the IAEA and its export controls.” Steinmeier suggested that a third country could provide an exterritorial area for a uranium-enrichment plant. The facility would be financed by recipient countries that would then have the right to acquire nuclear fuel.

In a Sept. 19 press conference in Vienna, German Secretary of State of the Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology Joachim Würmeling placed the German proposal in the context of a midterm solution to the concerns about Iran’s and North Korea’s nuclear programs. Würmeling explained that companies from established nuclear enrichment countries would construct the new facility, which would operate as a “black box.” Fuel recipients that currently do not enrich domestically would have no direct access to the facility. The German proposal is not market neutral because it would de facto establish a new competitor on the world market for nuclear fuel services.

Würmeling announced that Berlin would forward its initiative during the first half of 2007, when Germany holds both the EU Presidency and the Group of Eight chair. In a statement to the German Parliament on Oct. 19, Steinmeier described international reactions to his proposal as “encouraging.”

Mixed Reactions

Many speakers, including ElBaradei, emphasized that assurance of supply mechanisms are “not an attempt to divide the nuclear community into suppliers and recipients.” However, it was notable that all proposals to establish fuel reserves or other supply mechanisms emerged from current or potential nuclear fuel suppliers.

Many potential recipients, mostly from developing countries, remained either indifferent or voiced fears that a new “cartel” might be created. Many of them based their positions on the “inalienable right” of nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty states-parties to the peaceful use of nuclear energy. Iranian Vice President Gholamreza Aghazadeh in his statement to the general conference echoed these sentiments by warning “that the developed countries are seeing to create a monopoly” on uranium enrichment.

Malaysia was less critical. In a Sept. 20 statement to the IAEA general conference, Daud Mohamad, director-general of the Malaysian Institute for Nuclear Technology Research, cautioned that a multilateral approach to the nuclear fuel cycle should not be discriminatory. Nonetheless, he said that that it “should provide a more economically attractive option for developing countries embarking on a nuclear power generation program, particularly those countries with a relatively small nuclear program involving only a handful of nuclear power plants.” Malaysia currently does not operate nuclear power reactors but is studying the possibility of doing so.

All proponents of a fuel-bank mechanism emphasize that participation in a multilateral mechanism should be voluntary although eligibility of access might depend on various conditions, such as first renouncing enrichment and reprocessing ambitions.

It is not clear how such voluntary mechanisms would jibe with technology denial approaches, such as the one favored by the United States. The most recent round of the fuel-cycle debate was kicked off in February 2004, when President George W. Bush proposed an international agreement among nuclear supplier states to deny exports of enrichment and reprocessing technologies to countries that do not currently operate such facilities. Schulte confirmed this policy remains in place as far as the United States is concerned. “We still think that it is very important to prevent the further spread of enrichment technologies,” he said.

Some argued that attempts to restrict access to critical nuclear technologies has had unintended side effects. The recent interest of some states in expanding the scope of their nuclear activities has been explained by a desire to join the club of states operating a nuclear fuel cycle before membership is closed. Schulte acknowledged the debate but denied a causal link between U.S. export control policies and the recent expression of interest by Argentina, Australia, South Africa, and South Korea in establishing fuel-cycle facilities. “I don’t buy that argument. I’ve spoken to representatives of all those countries, and these decisions have been in many cases in the works for a number of years,” he stated.

The debate was further complicated by the unclear division between suppliers and recipients. For example, Japan currently enriches uranium only for domestic purposes but intends to export nuclear fuel in the future. It said it rejects the “dichotomy” inherent in the RANF proposal, which differentiates between suppliers and customer of nuclear services. Tokyo’s proposal for a standby arrangement is explicitly intended to bridge that gap.

Canada and Australia currently export uranium ore and provide other fuel services but may not want to foreclose the possibility of enriching uranium in the future. South Africa said that “some might choose to pursue sensitive fuel cycle activities in a limited way or only for research activities.” Brazil presented itself in Vienna as a supplier rather than as a recipient of nuclear fuel services.

There was also a notion that the discussion about fuel-supply arrangements is a solution looking for a problem. Historically, the “breakout” option has not played a large role in proliferation. States that developed nuclear weapons illegally or in a clandestine manner have preferred to set up dedicated military facilities to produce fissile material for the bomb instead of misusing civil facilities for that purpose.

Because the international market provides for reliable access to nuclear fuel from a variety of sources, it is also not quite clear what the added economic value of participating in a fuel-bank proposal is. Existing arrangements already provide certain assurances of supply because standard supply contracts for reactor-grade fuel contain clauses that place the responsibility for uninterrupted services on the supplier. Historically, supplies have rarely been interrupted.

In addition, any fuel-bank mechanism would have to overcome legal obstacles, including the practice of supplier states to maintain consent rights over any fissile material they deliver.

The Way Forward

Any multilateral fuel-supply assurance mechanism would have to overcome a variety of political, legal, and technical obstacles, but several speakers felt that discussions on such a model are already more specific and advanced than ever before. Richard J. K. Stratford, director of the Office of Nuclear Energy, Safety and Security at the U.S. Department of State, pointed out that “today there are numerous suppliers who are willing to take specific steps, and to spend their own money, to implement fuel supply assurances, and for many of the same reasons as in the 1980s.” ElBaradei in his statement to the IAEA special event said that “the urgent need for such a scheme today may help us to succeed.” He warned that “[w]e will all share in the benefits if we succeed, and we will share the risks if we fail.”

In the coming months, the IAEA secretariat will be preparing a “road map” for consideration by the IAEA Board of Governors in 2007. ElBaradei in his opening statement and Curtis in his chairman’s report agreed that establishment of a mechanism to ensure the supply of nuclear fuel should be considered first, starting with those proposals that are easiest to implement. Real “internationalization” of the fuel cycle, including the possible multilateralization of fuel-cycle facilities, is envisaged only in the long term, they said.

IAEA spokesperson Peter Rickwood told Arms Control Today on Oct. 20 that no decisions had been made on when the secretariat would deliver such a report or what its format might be.

Landmine Clearance Deadlines Looming

Wade Boese

One hundred adherents to a treaty banning anti-personnel landmines (APLs) recently met in Geneva and urged that the accord’s first mine clearance deadlines in 2009 be met. But attendees also adopted a process for countries to request more time if necessary.

The Sept. 18-22 Geneva gathering marked the seventh states-parties meeting of the 1997 Ottawa Convention, which entered into force March 1, 1999. The treaty outlaws landmines detonated by the contact or close proximity of a person and allows each state-party subsequent to joining four years to dispose of its stockpiled APLs and 10 years to cleanse its territory of such mines.

Although major powers such as China, Russia, and the United States have shunned the treaty, the number of states-parties continues to grow and now stands at 151. Additions over the past year include Brunei Darussalam, the Cook Islands, Haiti, and Ukraine. Kyiv possesses an estimated stockpile of nearly 6.7 million APLs, according to the latest annual Landmine Monitor Report published by the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL). Winner of the 1997 Nobel peace prize, the ICBL comprises more than 1,400 nongovernmental organizations dedicated to eliminating APLs.

In addition to Ukraine, another 11 states-parties—Afghanistan, Angola, Belarus, Burundi, Cyprus, Ethiopia, Greece, Guyana, Serbia, Sudan, and Turkey—have stockpiled mines awaiting destruction, according to the meeting’s draft progress report. Only Angola has suggested it might not complete the task in its allotted four-year period. All told, states-parties have destroyed more than 38 million stockpiled APLs.

More states-parties are busy trying to meet their individual 10-year deadlines to purge APLs from their soil. Costa Rica, Djibouti, Guatemala, Honduras, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, and Suriname all claim already to have finished ahead of schedule. However, the ICBL Sept. 19 disputed the claims of Djibouti and Honduras. The treaty does not have a secretariat or verification regime to check or resolve compliance concerns.

Of the more than 40 states-parties with APLs to clear, 21 are supposed to conclude the process in 2009. The ICBL estimated Sept. 19 that roughly half are not on pace to achieve this goal. The draft progress report also identified nine countries with insufficient or inconclusive demining plans to provide confidence that they will stay on schedule. Those appearing on both lists were Bosnia and Herzegovina, Chad, Croatia, Denmark, Thailand, and Yemen.

Some admit they may not meet their deadlines, citing too many mines, too few resources, or both. Bosnia and Herzegovina stated Sept. 19 that “fulfillment of these commitments…would require the mobilization of much more human, technical, and particularly financial resources” than currently available. Similarly, Afghanistan said the same day that it “will be able to meet the target only with strong donor support.”

Yet, the ICBL noted that 2005 marked the first year since the treaty entered into force that donor funding for mine action had “meaningfully” declined. Such funding covers, among other things, mine clearance and destruction programs, mine risk education, and survivor assistance. The total dropped from $399 million in 2004 to $376 million last year.

To be sure, the 2005 sum ranks as the second-highest yearly tally. Steve Goose, head of the ICBL delegation, said Sept. 18 it remained to be seen whether the 2005 dip “is an aberration or the start of a highly disturbing trend.”

Either way, states-parties recognize some countries are not going to meet their clearance deadlines. For capitals certain they will fall short, the treaty permits extensions of up to 10 years to complete their work.

The participants at the Geneva meeting adopted an extension request form and recommended that it be submitted at least nine months before the annual states-parties meeting or review conference that will vote on the extension. Requests will be granted by a positive majority vote.

Countries seeking extensions are supposed to provide information on their past clearance efforts and future plans and explain why they will miss their original deadline. A government official from one state-party told Arms Control Today Oct. 17 that requests should be for the “minimum time necessary,” not some automatic period. “An extension should only be sought as a last resort,” the official added.

In its Sept. 19 statement, the ICBL acknowledged some countries “simply have too large a burden” but also asserted some have not tried hard enough. It charged France, Niger, Swaziland, the United Kingdom, and Venezuela as having “undertaken little or no clearance” work.

Still, the United Kingdom and France rank among the top 20 cumulative donors for global mine action. According to the ICBL, London has contributed the fifth-highest total, $175 million, since 1992, while France occupies the 17th spot at $28.6 million.

The all-time leading donor, the United States, is not a state-party. A Department of State press release Sept. 21 noted that Washington has supplied “well over $1 billion dollars to nearly 50 countries” since 1993.

Pointing to the declared U.S. military requirement for APLs on the Korean Peninsula as one of his reasons, President Bill Clinton refused to join the Ottawa Convention in 1997. However, he left open the option of the United States eventually acceding to the treaty.

In February 2004, the Bush administration ruled out treaty membership. But the administration said it would phase out by 2010 all anti-personnel and anti-vehicle mines lacking self-destruct and self-deactivation devices. (See ACT, March 2004.)

Anti-vehicle mines are unrestricted by any treaty, but the United States is attempting to change that through negotiations under the 1980 Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW). For several years, Washington and its 30 co-sponsors have been pushing a new CCW measure to require all anti-vehicle mines outside marked perimeters to be detectable and rigged with self-destruct and self-deactivation devices. (See ACT, January/February 2006.)

But opposition from several countries, led by China and Russia, has prevented the initiative’s adoption, and the United States is losing patience. If the proposal fails to win acceptance at the Nov. 7-17 CCW review conference, Washington might drop it. “Do we keep on repeating ourselves?” a frustrated U.S. official commented to Arms Control Today Sept. 14.

China and Russia account for 85 percent of the estimated 160 million APLs stockpiled by countries outside the Ottawa Convention, according to the ICBL. Beijing possesses an estimated 110 million APLs, and Moscow stores about 26.5 million.

China was among the two dozen non-states-parties to attend the Geneva meeting. The United States did not participate and neither did Russia, which the ICBL accused along with Myanmar and Nepal of using APLs over the past year.

Russia, Iran Sign Deal to Fuel Bushehr Reactor

Paul Kerr

Iran and Russia have concluded a revised schedule for Russia to fuel a light-water nuclear power reactor that a Russian contractor is constructing near the Iranian city of Bushehr.

According to Sergey Shmatko, head of the Russian contractor for the project, the two countries signed an agreement Sept. 26 providing that Russia would deliver the low-enriched uranium fuel for the reactor by March 2007, RIA Novosti reported. The reactor is to begin operating in September 2007 and begin providing energy two months later.

In February 2005, the two countries concluded an agreement to supply fuel for the reactor for a period of 10 years. At that time, Alexander Rumyantsev, then-director of the Russian Federal Agency for Atomic Energy, said the reactor would begin operating in late 2006, with the fuel to be delivered about six months earlier. (See ACT, April 2005.)

However, the project has since been delayed. Although Russian officials have characterized the delays as resulting from technical issues, officials from other countries have said that foot-dragging also has likely played a role. Iranian officials for their part have expressed frustration with the pace of the reactor construction. According to the official Islamic Republic News Agency, Vice President Gholamreza Aghazadeh, who also heads Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, told reporters Sept. 25 that the delays were caused by technical issues as well as incompetence on the part of the Russian contractor.

The project has encountered repeated delays since Russia agreed in 1995 to finish the reactor. The original German contractor abandoned the project following Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution.

The September agreement came as Russia and five other countries were attempting to persuade Iran to resume negotiations designed to resolve international concerns about its gas centrifuge-based uranium-enrichment program, which the United States believes to be part of a nuclear weapons program. Tehran contends that the program is meant to produce fuel for other future nuclear reactors.

Subsequently, Tehran’s failure to meet an October deadline for resuming negotiations prompted the UN Security Council to take up discussions again on a resolution that would take punitive actions against Iran.

The resolution could affect the fuel-delivery schedule, but Russian officials have repeatedly said that Moscow intends to move ahead with the reactor.

For example, the current head of Russia’s atomic energy ministry, Sergei Kiriyenko, indicated during an early September interview with Reuters that the project was not linked to the other Iranian nuclear issues. “As long as the plant does not violate nonproliferation requirements…there will be no obstacles,” he said. Additionally, Russian Security Council Secretary Igor Ivanov said that Moscow “will fulfill all its obligations” with respect to the project, RIA Novosti reported Oct. 3.

Nevertheless, U.S. and European officials have told Arms Control Today that they believe Moscow is pressuring Tehran by slowing work on the project. Press reports have indicated that work has slowed, but Russia has not explicitly linked the project’s pace to Iran’s compliance with UN demands. (See ACT, May 2006.)

The United States had previously urged Russia to end work on the project. But U.S. officials said in 2002 that Washington would drop its public objections if Moscow took steps, such as requiring Iran to return the spent fuel to Russia, to mitigate the project’s proliferation risks.

The 2005 deal includes such a provision, designed to reduce the risk that Iran will separate plutonium from the spent fuel. Separated plutonium can be used as fissile material in nuclear weapons. Tehran does not have a known facility for reprocessing spent nuclear fuel to obtain plutonium, although it has conducted related experiments.

Russia also contends that the reactor will not pose a proliferation risk because it will operate under International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards. Agency safeguards agreements require states-parties to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty to allow the agency to monitor their declared civilian nuclear activities to ensure that they are not diverted to military use.

 

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