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The Arms Control Association is an "exceptional organization that effectively addresses pressing national and international challenges with an impact that is disproportionate to its small size." 

– John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
January 19, 2011
October 2010
Edition Date: 
Tuesday, October 5, 2010
Cover Image: 

Corrections

•  The September 2010 “Focus” incorrectly said four NATO countries hosting tactical nuclear bombs called on the alliance to review its nuclear sharing arrangements. There were three such countries.

•  The September 2010 “On the Calendar” misstated the date of a ministerial meeting on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. The date was September 23.

U.S. Arms Deals Decline in Shrinking Market

Jeff Abramson and Meghan Warren

Although the United States retained its place as the world’s top arms supplier, its share of conventional arms agreements dropped in a shrinking 2009 global market, according to a recent Congressional Research Service report.

“Conventional Arms Transfers to Developing Nations, 2002-2009,” the latest in a series of reports authored annually since 1982 by security specialist Richard Grimmett, found that the value of arms transfer agreements in 2009 totaled $57.5 billion, an 8.5 percent drop from the 2008 value of $62.8 billion and the second consecutive year of decline. Grimmett cites numerous reasons for the trend; he concludes that “the clear decline in all arms orders collectively in 2009 reflects, in part, the effect of the international recession.”

The United States and Russia continue to dominate the market, ranking first and second, respectively, as arms suppliers. In 2009, France jumped to third overall, increasing its agreements from $3.2 billion in 2008 to $7.4 billion. (See ACT, October 2009.)

Having dominated 2008 arms agreements with 60.6 percent of the global total by value, the United States saw its arms agreements drop sharply in 2009 to $22.6 billion from $38.1 billion the previous year, only 39.3 percent of the global total. According to the report, the unusually high U.S. share in 2008 could be attributed to the large number of high-value agreements, which are rarely repeated in consecutive years. The latest figure is closer to the average U.S. market share of 39.9 percent over the 2002-2009 period.

As in previous years, the United States’ primary developing-world clients tended to be in the Near East or Asia. High-value agreements in 2009 included $3.2 billion for a Patriot air defense missile system for Taiwan, $1.7 billion for F-16 fighter aircraft for Egypt, $745 million in support to the United Arab Emirates for Black Hawk helicopters, and $540 million in support to Saudi Arabia for Apache helicopters.

Unlike the United States, Russia saw its arms transfer agreements decrease significantly in 2008, but rise in 2009. Russia nearly doubled the value of its arms agreements, increasing to $10.4 billion in 2009 from $5.5 billion in 2008. Although Grimmett notes that sales programs to India, and to a lesser extent China, will be central to maintaining Russia’s arms programs, Moscow has sought to foster closer ties with Latin American and Southeast Asian states. In 2009, Russia inked a deal with Venezuela to provide a $2.2 billion loan for the procurement of main battle tanks, armored cars, and anti-aircraft missile systems. Other notable transfer agreements included $1.8 billion in diesel submarines and $500 million in Su-MK2 fighter aircraft to Vietnam, $570 million in MiG-29 aircraft to Myanmar, and $500 million in jet engines for China’s J-10 fighters.

During 2002-2009, Russia held approximately 17.7 percent of the arms transfer market, and with 18.1 percent in 2009 returned to its approximate eight-year average. Using new information, Grimmett updates all prior-year figures, increasing Russia’s 2008 total and placing it second to the United States in global agreements in each of the last eight years. Originally, Italy placed second in global agreements for 2008, but the most recent report lowers it to third place for that year.

As in previous reports, Grimmett identified deficiencies in Russia’s research and development investments and pointed to efforts to acquire French naval technology through the prospective purchase of Mistral ships as an example of not keeping pace with other suppliers. He concludes that the weakness of Russian research and development is “a factor that may deter expansion of the Russian arms client base.”

Developing States Are Central

Agreements with developing states, which comprised 78.4 percent of the global market in 2009, remain the primary drivers of fluctuation in the international arms market. The total value of these agreements was $45.1 billion in 2009, down $3.7 billion from 2008 totals, according to the report. Grimmett defines developing nations as “all countries except the United States, Russia, European nations, Canada, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand.”

The market for arms sales to developing countries remains fiercely competitive, with Russia, the United States, the United Kingdom, and other European countries all vying for the limited resources of smaller, less wealthy countries. Developed states seeking to ink these lucrative agreements often pursue innovative financing solutions to secure deals for high-cost weapons systems.

In contrast to recent years, two Latin American countries led the list of developing states making arms agreements in 2009. Brazil approved $7.2 billion in arms purchases, the bulk of which were related to contracts for diesel submarines from France. Venezuela ranked second among developing states with $6.4 billion in such approvals, largely as a result of trade with Russia.

Countries in Asia and the Near East comprised the remainder of the top 10 developing states concluding arms transfer agreements in 2009. During 2006-2009, Saudi Arabia ranked as the top importer of foreign arms, constituting 17.2 percent of all developing states’ arms transfer agreements in the period, using values not adjusted for inflation. In 2009, however, it ranked as the third-largest importer, granting $4.3 billion in agreements.

Arms deals with Saudi Arabia are controversial. Even before an expected official notification to Congress of a multibillion-dollar U.S.-Saudi deal, Reps. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.), Shelley Berkley (D-Nev.), and Christopher Carney (D-Pa.) promised to try to block the agreement, writing in a Sept. 15 letter to President Barack Obama that “Saudi Arabia is not deserving of our aid, and by arming them with advanced American weaponry we are sending the wrong message.”

Although ninth in agreements for 2009, India remains a top prize for major suppliers, ranked second during 2006-2009 and accounting for 10 percent of developing states’ arms transfer agreements in that period. Last year, Washington and New Delhi agreed on defense trade procedures, and Obama is scheduled to visit India later this year. (See ACT, September 2009.) Although not specifically identifying arms sales, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said in a wide-ranging foreign policy speech Sept. 8 that the United States is “laying the foundation for an indispens[a]ble partnership. President Obama will use his visit in November to take our relationship to the next level.” Neighboring Pakistan concluded approximately one-half the value of agreements as India did during 2006-2009, according to data in the report.

China, whose arms supply deals often involve small arms and light weapons for Asian, African, and Near Eastern states, concluded a contract to sell 36 J-10 fighter aircraft to Pakistan for $1.4 billion. Although Pakistan remains a key client, China’s overall arms transfer agreements, valued at $1.7 billion, or 3 percent, of the market in 2009, indicate that it “does not appear likely to be a key supplier of major conventional weapons in the developing world arms market in the immediate future,” the report said.

Deliveries Continue to Decline

Global arms deliveries totaled $35.1 billion in 2009, down from $36.7 billion in 2008. The 2009 figures show a gap of $22.4 billion between agreements and deliveries. For the developing world, actual deliveries dropped to $17.0 billion from $20.5 billion, creating a gap between agreements and deliveries of $28.1 billion for those states. These figures represent the lowest yearly total of deliveries in the 2002-2009 period covered by Grimmett’s report.

The gulf between agreements and deliveries often arises as a result of delays in the implementation of arms transfer agreements. These agreements may require years to come through and are subject to change based on economic conditions and military requirements. The total value of agreements is $117.7 billion higher than that of deliveries over the eight-year period of the report.

The United States remains dominant in the realm of actual arms deliveries. It closed in on 41 percent of total deliveries with $14.4 billion delivered in 2009, up from $12.2 billion in 2008. Russia was a distant second, delivering $3.7 billion in weapons, a 38.7 percent drop from $6.0 billion in 2008. Germany ranked third with $2.8 billion, down $1.1 billion from 2008. The three countries combined constituted almost 60 percent of total weapons deliveries in 2009.

 

Although the United States retained its place as the world’s top arms supplier, its share of conventional arms agreements dropped in a shrinking 2009 global market, according to a recent Congressional Research Service report.

OPCW Chief Looks to Middle East

Daniel Horner

Countries in the Middle East that are not parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) should “delink” their decisions on joining that treaty from issues relating to other accords, the head of the CWC’s implementing body said Aug. 30.

At a breakfast session with reporters in Washington, Ahmet Üzümcü, the director-general of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), said the use of chemical weapons “has become militarily meaningless and morally unacceptable.”

Egypt and Syria have said they will not join the CWC unless Israel becomes a party to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). Egypt and Syria are parties to the NPT; Israel has signed the CWC, but not ratified it. They represent three out of the seven countries that have not joined the CWC; the others are Angola, Myanmar (Burma), North Korea, and Somalia.

At the 2010 NPT Review Conference in May, the parties agreed to a final document that includes a commitment to steps toward establishing a zone free of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in the Middle East. (See ACT, June 2010.) A key step is to hold a conference on the issue in 2012.

“Obviously it would be in the interest of the whole international community to see a WMD-free zone, as has happened in other parts of the world,” Üzümcü said. However, “[i]f for one reason or another it doesn’t happen in the immediate future, what we advocate for the immediate future is at least to achieve a [chemical-weapon-]free zone in this part of the world.”

It is in the interests of the three Middle Eastern nonparties to join the CWC “as early as possible,” said Üzümcü, a Turkish diplomat. He said that, in speaking with representatives of those countries, he would emphasize “incentives provided by the convention itself.” He specifically cited Article X, which deals with “assistance and protection against chemical weapons,” and Article XI, which deals with “economic and technological development,” including international cooperation.

The OPCW is planning to provide “substantive input” to the 2012 conference and will use it and the run-up to it as an opportunity to interact with the countries from the region, he said.

Üzümcü took office in July, succeeding Rogelio Pfirter.

One of Pfirter’s initiatives had been to draw attention to inspections of “other chemical production facilities” (OCPFs), which are inspected at a lower rate than other facilities that are declarable under the treaty but are technically capable of producing chemical weapons agents or precursors. Pfirter proposed that in countries with many OCPFs, the countries’ national authorities would, or could, verify some of the declared OCPFs. (See ACT, January/February 2010.)

Üzümcü said he also considered OCPF inspections to be an important issue. There are about 5,000 OCPFs in the world, and the OPCW currently conducts 125 OCPF inspections per year, he said. It would take years to inspect all of them, but “[m]aybe we don’t need” to do that and could instead “identify the most relevant OPCFs to be inspected,” he said.

Also, he said, the OPCW should be able to convince states that the inspections are in their own interest. “It may create some burden” for the states in which the inspections take place, but “it provides an added value to the overall domestic control mechanisms” of those states. If the states are worried about diversion from the facilities, they should see this type of “verification mechanism” as being in their interest, he said.

Such an inspection “ensures a certain discipline, which in my view is very much in the interest of the receiving state-party,” he said.

Üzümcü was in Washington to meet with Obama administration officials and then travel to the U.S. chemical weapons storage and disposal facility at Blue Grass Army Depot in Kentucky. According to a Sept. 6 OPCW press release, the administration officials included Gen. James Jones, President Barack Obama’s national security adviser; Rose Gottemoeller, the assistant secretary of state for verification, compliance, and implementation; and Andrew Weber, the assistant to the secretary of defense for nuclear and chemical and biological defense programs.

 

Delegates Catch Early Glimpses of BWC Review

Kirk Bansak

An August meeting of experts on the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) saw delegates and others starting to focus on next year’s review conference, primarily through informal discussions on topics that are likely to figure prominently at the December 2011 gathering, such as the implications of biotechnological breakthroughs.

Chaired by Pedro Oyarce, Chile’s permanent representative to the UN Office at Geneva, the Aug. 23-27 meeting at the UN office hosted delegates from 89 states-parties, as well as international organizations and nongovernmental organizations. Formally convened to address a circumscribed topical area as a routine part of the annual BWC procedure, the meeting was not officially focused on the review conference.

Nonetheless, some of the opening statements featured “broad political language that looked to” next year’s event, while “on the margins, there was a great deal of discussion about what to expect for the review conference,” Christopher Park, a U.S. delegation member from the Department of State, said in a Sept. 14 interview. Park said he viewed such discussions as a “constructive” first step, as countries are “just now gearing up to think hard” about next year’s undertaking.

Parties ideally set their agendas for a review conference a year in advance, making consultations over the next few months critical, diplomats at the meeting said.

Meanwhile, the nomination of Paul Van den IJssel, the Netherlands’ ambassador to the UN Conference on Disarmament, as president for the review conference drew collective attention to the 2011 meeting. The last review conference for the BWC, which entered into force in 1975, was in 2006.

“We spoke to several delegations in view of [Van den IJssel’s] nomination,” but “emphasized that we are in listening mode at present,” Vincent Storimans, a policy adviser at the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Security Policy Department, said in an e-mail exchange after the meeting. “The Netherlands is interested in hearing different views and proposals” to prepare for the review conference, Storimans said, while pointing out that a formal decision on Van den IJssel’s nomination will not be made until the parties to the treaty meet again this December.

Agenda Preview

During the experts meeting, specific topics expected for negotiation next year came to the fore, particularly during informal seminars held throughout the week.

For example, the Geneva Forum, a partnership of organizations focused on advancing disarmament and arms control, chaired a panel discussion on using the review conference to modernize the treaty’s voluntary information-exchange system, known as confidence-building measures. Since the introduction of confidence-building measures in 1986, the seminar speakers explained, new security dynamics and scientific developments have rendered the system in need of an update. For instance, it was suggested that information shared on national biodefense research laboratories should be broadened in scope, due to the unique dual-use potential of these facilities.

Another seminar addressed advances in synthetic biology, which has become a much discussed topic and an anticipated issue for the review conference, as states grapple with the impact of scientific and technological developments on the BWC regime.

“It was indicated that we should try to focus in the review conference on dealing with issues of malign use of biology that are unheard of today,” Storimans said, referring to the Dutch discussions with other delegations.

The fate of the BWC’s annual meetings is another likely area of consideration for the review conference. These annual meetings, comprising what is known as the “intersessional work program,” are convened to discuss and “promote common understanding and effective action on” topics specified by the final report of the 2006 review conference. Due to its circumscribed topics and lack of a decision-making mandate, the intersessional process has been criticized by some for having “degenerated into nothing more than a talk shop,” Park said.

However, he said that, in their August opening statements, many countries observed “progress on the whole range of [intersessional] topics,” signaling that the process has spurred meaningful national action. In an e-mail exchange after the meeting, Piers Millett, deputy head of the unit in Geneva that provides institutional support to the BWC, said the intersessional process has provided “unparalleled opportunities to build working relationships that have led to practical actions.”

This year’s official topic, addressed throughout the meeting’s plenary proceedings, was the provision of international assistance and coordination in the case of alleged use of biological or toxin weapons, including improving public health systems and national capabilities for disease surveillance, detection, and diagnosis.

Looking Back While Looking Forward

The intersessional work program was first instituted in the wake of the controversial U.S. decision during the 2001 review conference to withdraw from negotiations on a legally binding inspection regime, commonly referred to as the verification protocol. Last December, Ellen Tauscher, the U.S. undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, announced that the Obama administration would continue the Bush administration’s policy of not pursuing negotiations on a legally binding verification protocol, saying that it “would not achieve meaningful verification or greater security.” (See ACT, January/February 2010.)

However, the issue of verifying compliance, although unlikely to reappear in its pre-2001 form, is expected to return in the run-up to the review conference as well as during it, according to a discussion paper submitted last year by Canada. In its opening statement at the August meeting, presented on behalf of the European Union, Belgium reiterated the EU commitment to “identifying effective mechanisms to strengthen and verify compliance with the Convention.”

The Canadian paper recommended early preparation of a middle ground on this issue in order to help “sidelin[e] hard line thinking” that could stonewall progress during the review conference and in order to consider views from as many parties as possible.

The BWC lacks a formal mechanism to verify compliance.

Step by Step

During plenary sessions, experts in public health, law enforcement, and other areas gave presentations on a range of issues pertaining to the August meeting’s official topic. These included methods for investigating alleged use of biological weapons, providing international assistance to mitigate the impact of use, and improving national and international capabilities to conduct disease surveillance.

The meeting did not witness any public controversy over a report released in July by the U.S. Department of State, which noted concerns about potential noncompliance by several BWC parties in attendance, such as Iran and Russia.

In accordance with the annual routine, the August meeting will be followed by a related meeting Dec. 6-10, known formally as the meeting of states-parties. Further ahead, a preparatory committee is scheduled to convene next spring to set the formal agenda for the 2011 review conference, which is to take place Dec. 2-23.

 

An August meeting of experts on the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) saw delegates and others starting to focus on next year’s review conference, primarily through informal discussions on topics that are likely to figure prominently at the December 2011 gathering, such as the implications of biotechnological breakthroughs.

India Passes Nuclear Liability Bill

Eric Auner

The Indian parliament has approved a bill that sets up a mechanism to compensate victims and defines who is liable, and to what extent, in the case of a nuclear accident. The bill makes nuclear supplier firms, in addition to the nuclear facility operator, potentially liable for such an accident.

The Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Bill passed the Rajya Sabha, the upper house of the Indian parliament, Aug. 30 amid intense debate.

The bill seeks to enable the entry of private firms into the Indian civil nuclear market. Private nuclear firms typically require a legal cap on liability in order to insure themselves against accidents in a given country, and India previously lacked a regime that assigned legal liability. Government-owned firms, such as those in France and Russia, are covered by their respective governments and are not as dependent on a liability cap. U.S. nuclear suppliers are privately owned.

The U.S.-India Business Council in Washington released a statement Aug. 30, saying India should not channel liability to suppliers. “The absence of an effective, CSC [Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage]-compliant liability regime could preclude involvement by the private sector…and stymie India’s multi-year effort to develop civil nuclear power” the council said.

In 2005, President George W. Bush and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh announced an approach to easing U.S. and international nuclear trade restrictions on India, which is not a party to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) and conducted nuclear test explosions in 1974 and 1998. In return for access to the global nuclear market, India agreed to place some of its nuclear facilities under International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards. The Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) and the U.S. Congress approved the plan in 2008. (See ACT, October 2008.)

A critical part of the new approach to India was a nuclear cooperation agreement, signed in 2007, with the United States. In the United States, critics said the agreement and the new policy as a whole undermined the nonproliferation regime and U.S. law by providing benefits to an NPT nonsignatory without requiring sufficient nonproliferation and disarmament measures in return. Advocates said the pact would bring India into the nonproliferation “mainstream,” improve U.S.-Indian relations, and spur trade between the two countries, in part by giving U.S. firms access to the potentially lucrative Indian nuclear market.

Article 17(b) of the liability bill states that the operator of an Indian nuclear facility has a “right of recourse” from the “supplier of the material, equipment or services” in the event of a “nuclear incident” resulting from the supplier’s “willful act or gross negligence.” The government-owned Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd. (NPCIL) currently is the only operator of nuclear power plants in India.

The Congress Party-led coalition government had attempted to change the supplier liability language so the right of recourse would only apply if there was “intent to cause nuclear damage” on the part of the supplier, but opposition complaints led to the removal of that language. International conventions governing nuclear liability, including the CSC, channel liability exclusively to the operator.

The Indian government is not party to any of those conventions. In a 2008 letter to U.S. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs William Burns, Indian Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon said New Delhi intended to “adhere to” the CSC prior to commencing nuclear trade with the United States.

The liability bill also intends to “ensure clarity of liability and the requirement to pay compensation” to those who suffer physical or economic harm “caused by or arising out of a nuclear incident,” according to the “Statement of Objects and Reasons” attached to the text of the bill. In the event of such an incident, compensation is to be awarded by a specially appointed commissioner or by a central government commission in special cases. Article 46 clarifies that additional “proceeding[s]” may be brought against the operator of a nuclear facility under existing Indian law. This article potentially exposes the NPCIL to additional liability, and it is unclear how it would affect foreign suppliers.

There was a heated parliamentary debate on the legislation, including accusations that the bill was intended to shield U.S. corporations at the expense of Indian interests. The debate was influenced by the recent sentencing in India of eight Union Carbide executives who were involved with the 1984 Bhopal industrial accident in which 15,000 people were killed. The sentences were widely seen as lenient, and they drew political attention to U.S. companies involved in potentially hazardous activities in India.

In Aug. 25 remarks before the Lok Sabha, the lower house of parliament, Singh argued that the bill “completes [India’s] journey to end nuclear apartheid, which the world had imposed on India.” The United States and others placed sanctions on India’s nuclear program following the county’s 1974 nuclear test. Singh referred to claims that the bill promoted U.S. interests as being “far from being the truth.”

Indian Atomic Energy Commission Chairman Srikumar Banerjee insisted that the bill is “India-centric” in an interview with India’s Frontline magazine. He also downplayed the possibility that the inclusion of Article 17(b) would discourage foreign suppliers. “I hope I will be able to convince [foreign suppliers] that this will not cause any difficulty” in conducting nuclear commerce with India, he said.

The opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had been critical of the bill, with senior BJP member Jaswant Singh accusing the government of “hustling” the bill through parliament. The BJP initially complained that the bill was too lenient toward suppliers and that the liability cap for operators was too low. However, after the government made several changes to the bill, including a tripling of operator liability, the BJP supported the legislation. In a press release on the party’s Web site, senior BJP leaders accused the government of initially attempting to pass a “suppliers immunity law,” but expressed “satisfaction” with the changes.

 

The Indian parliament has approved a bill that sets up a mechanism to compensate victims and defines who is liable, and to what extent, in the case of a nuclear accident. The bill makes nuclear supplier firms, in addition to the nuclear facility operator, potentially liable for such an accident.

The Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Bill passed the Rajya Sabha, the upper house of the Indian parliament, Aug. 30 amid intense debate.

U.S. Considers New North Korea Talks

Peter Crail

The United States is in discussions with its diplomatic partners in Asia on the potential resumption of talks on North Korea’s nuclear program, U.S. officials said last month.

They cautioned that progress is unlikely in the near future, as Pyongyang still must meet certain conditions before negotiations could resume. During visits to China, Japan, and South Korea for discussions on the possible renewal of denuclearization talks, U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Policy Stephen Bosworth told reporters Sept. 15 that “it is going to take some time” for negotiations to resume, adding that North Korea must show that it is prepared to take “specific and concrete” actions.

When asked during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing the following day what conditions need to be met before talks could restart, Kurt Campbell, assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, said “an essential first step…needs to be some sort of re-engagement between North and South Korea.”

Tensions between the two countries increased dramatically in March with the sinking of the South Korean patrol ship Cheonan, believed to have been caused by a North Korean torpedo attack. (See ACT, May 2010.) U.S. and South Korean officials said following the suspected attack that efforts to re-engage North Korean on the nuclear issue would need to be delayed until the incident was resolved.

Although North Korea has denied any involvement in the sinking of the Cheonan, making an early resolution of the incident unlikely, the two Koreas have engaged in some efforts to improve relations in recent weeks. Bosworth said during a Sept. 16 press briefing that “there is some reason to be somewhat optimistic that [North-South re-engagement] has begun.”

North and South Korea held a series of discussions in September over the possibility of reuniting families separated since the 1950-1953 Korean War. Those talks are scheduled to continue this month.

U.S. officials have said that in addition to improving relations with Seoul, Pyongyang must show that it is prepared to make progress on denuclearization. Campbell told the Senate panel that Washington has sought “clear signals” from Pyongyang that it would be willing to fulfill its commitments made in the six-party talks in 2005.

In September 2005, North Korea reached an agreement with China, Japan, Russia, South Korea, and the United States to abandon its nuclear weapons and nuclear programs in return for political and economic benefits. Pyongyang withdrew from those negotiations in April 2009 after the UN Security Council rebuked its rocket launch earlier that month.

In a Sept. 15 op-ed in The New York Times following his unofficial visit to North Korea in August, former President Jimmy Carter said that he received “clear, strong signals” from Pyongyang that it wants to restart negotiations on a peace treaty formally ending the Korean War and on denuclearization. North Korean officials “referred to the six-party talks as being ‘sentenced to death but not yet executed,’” Carter said.

Carter met with North Korea’s second-most senior official, Kim Yong Nam, among other key officials for discussions while securing the release of Aijalon Gomes, a detained U.S. citizen accused of trespassing into North Korean territory in January. North Korean leader Kim Jong Il was visiting China at the time of Carter’s trip.

North Korean officials have previously said that Pyongyang would be willing to resume negotiations once sanctions are lifted. (See ACT, March 2010.) The UN Security Council has imposed two sets of sanctions on North Korea. Aimed at its nuclear and missile programs, the sanctions include an arms embargo, financial restrictions, and a ban on exports of luxury goods. Bosworth told reporters Sept. 15 that the discussion of lifting sanctions is “very premature.” Washington expanded its own sanctions on North Korea in recent weeks.

President Barack Obama signed an executive order Aug. 30 that expanded financial restrictions on North Korean entities believed to be involved in illicit activities, including money laundering and trafficking in arms, luxury goods, and narcotics. The same day, the Department of the Treasury sanctioned eight additional North Korean organizations and individuals for involvement in Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programs.

Some former U.S. officials have cautioned against easing sanctions in return for talks with Pyongyang because North Korea is not prepared to abandon its nuclear program. Michael Green, senior director for Asian affairs at the National Security Council during the Bush administration, said in a Sept. 23 e-mail that direct talks with North Korea “are not worth reducing sanctions or curtailing other defensive measures since the prospects of these contacts leading to denuclearization in the near term are close to zero.”

But Joel Wit, who served as the U.S. coordinator for a 1994 bilateral denuclearization agreement with North Korea, said that there were greater risks to missing an opportunity to lower tensions and re-engage with North Korea and that Washington will need to be ready to ease some sanctions in the context of any renewed negotiations.

“The sanctions can communicate resolve and show that the temperature is rising,” he said in a Sept. 24 interview, but they “will not be effective in stopping a determined proliferator.”

 

The United States is in discussions with its diplomatic partners in Asia on the potential resumption of talks on North Korea’s nuclear program, U.S. officials said last month.

IAEA Vote to Press Israel Falls Short

Alfred Nurja and Peter Crail

The members of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on Sept. 24 narrowly voted down a resolution expressing concern over Israeli nuclear capabilities and calling on the country to join the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT).

The resolution, which was offered by the Arab Group, came to the floor on the last day of the week-long meeting of the IAEA General Conference in Vienna. The 51-46 vote against the resolution, with 54 abstentions or absences, marks a shift from last year, when a similar resolution passed by a vote of 49-46.

For nearly 20 years, Arab states have sponsored resolutions targeting Israel’s nuclear policy and calling on it to join the NPT. Last year’s vote was the first to succeed. The votes split primarily between Western countries and members of the Nonaligned Movement (NAM), a bloc representing 118 developing nations.

The General Conference is the agency’s highest decision-making body, comprising all 151 IAEA members.

The United States lobbied extensively against the motion, saying that it risked undermining ongoing Israeli-Palestinian peace talks as well as prospects for a 2012 conference on the establishment of a zone free of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in the Middle East. In a statement welcoming the outcome of the vote, Glyn Davies, the U.S. ambassador to the IAEA, said that “rejection of the resolution has not created winners and losers, but instead preserved the opportunity for progress” on those two objectives.

At the 2010 NPT Review Conference in May, the parties to the treaty endorsed steps toward establishing a WMD-free zone in the Middle East, including convening a conference of states in the region in 2012. Those steps are intended to advance a 1995 resolution calling for a WMD-free zone in the Middle East. That resolution was key to securing Arab consensus on extending the NPT indefinitely.

Prior to the vote, the United States sought to persuade sponsors of the resolution to withdraw it for consideration this year and agree to a one-year moratorium on the issue. “Regrettably, there was no positive response to this proposal,” Davies told the conference.

The U.S. position was echoed by the European Union. In a letter sent to IAEA Director-General Yukiya Amano, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton said that the resolution’s “non-consensual approach” would not help the 2012 agenda.

Speaking at a press conference in New York Sept. 24, Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa said he regretted the outcome of the vote and warned of a regional arms race if Israel maintained nuclear weapons. “It is inconceivable that only one country [in the region] will have nuclear weapons,” he said, adding that “the Middle East should be free of all weapons of mass destruction.”

In a statement to the IAEA conference before the vote, Israel Atomic Energy Commission Director-General Shaul Chorev accused the resolution’s sponsors of seeking to divert attention from Iran and Syria, “the real cases of dangerous proliferation and non-compliance” in the Middle East. An approach that singles out Israel “defeats the prospects for the advancement of arms control measures in the Middle East region,” he said.

Israel, which is widely believed to possess nuclear weapons, has tied any decision to sign the NPT to progress on a comprehensive peace agreement in the region. Arab countries say that Israel’s suspected nuclear arsenal is a major hurdle to any peace negotiations. Israel’s position is not to confirm or deny having nuclear weapons. Accession to the treaty as a non-nuclear-weapon state would require Israel to abandon its ambiguous nuclear policy and place all nuclear facilities under IAEA monitoring.

Last year’s resolution required the IAEA director-general to report on progress in securing Israel’s accession to the NPT and in safeguarding all of its nuclear facilities. Amano’s Sept. 3 report said that Israel’s “nuclear material, facilities or other items to which safeguards had been applied remained in peaceful activities” but that the agency “is not in a position” to determine the extent of Israel’s unsafeguarded nuclear activities. In a Sept. 16 statement, the Arab League criticized the report, saying that it was “devoid of any substance and not up to the typical level of the Agency’s reporting.”

 

The members of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on Sept. 24 narrowly voted down a resolution expressing concern over Israeli nuclear capabilities and calling on the country to join the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT).

The resolution, which was offered by the Arab Group, came to the floor on the last day of the week-long meeting of the IAEA General Conference in Vienna. The 51-46 vote against the resolution, with 54 abstentions or absences, marks a shift from last year, when a similar resolution passed by a vote of 49-46.

U.S. Seeks IAEA Leverage in Syria Probe

Peter Crail

The United States last month suggested that further measures may be required to open up Syrian sites to international nuclear inspectors, raising the prospect of a rarely used “special inspection” by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Absent Syria’s cooperation with the ongoing IAEA investigation, “we are approaching a situation where the [IAEA] Board [of Governors] and the Secretariat must consider all available measures and authorities to pursue the verification assurances the international community seeks,” Glyn Davies, the U.S. ambassador to the IAEA, said in a Sept. 16 statement to the board during its week-long meeting.

Davies has suggested in recent weeks that a special inspection is one such option. Reuters reported Sept. 16 that Davies said in August that “a number of countries” were beginning to ask whether it was time to initiate a special inspection to gain access to suspect locations.

Under the IAEA model safeguards agreement, the agency can conduct a special inspection to investigate undeclared sites if the existing inspection mechanism “is not adequate for the agency to fulfill its responsibilities under the agreement.” That provision has been used only twice: in Romania in 1992 at the Romanian government’s request, and in North Korea in 1993. Pyongyang rejected the inspection, touching off an international crisis leading to a nuclear freeze agreement with the United States a year later.

Although the IAEA board can request such an inspection, the decision is up to the agency’s director-general, currently Yukiya Amano.

The IAEA, the United States, and the European Union have all called on Syria to implement an additional protocol to its safeguards agreement, which would also allow access to undeclared sites.

Amano’s Response

Amano expressed frustration with Syria’s lack of cooperation with a two-year investigation into suspected illicit nuclear activities. “Syria has not cooperated with the agency since June 2008 in connection with the unresolved issues related to the Dair al Zour site and some other locations,” he told the board Sept. 13.

A facility Israel destroyed at Dair al Zour in 2007 is widely suspected to have been a nuclear reactor under construction with North Korean assistance. The United States publicly accused Syria in 2008 of building the reactor to produce plutonium for nuclear weapons. (See ACT, June 2008.) The IAEA also has requested information regarding additional sites that may have some connection to the Dair al Zour facility.

Damascus allowed the agency to carry out one visit to the site in June 2008, but has rebuffed requests for follow-up checks. A Sept. 6 report by Amano to the IAEA board expressed concern that information on the Dair al Zour site “is further deteriorating or has been lost entirely” as time has passed. During its 2008 inspections, the IAEA detected traces of materials that could have been intended for a reactor—in particular, the kind of reactor North Korea has built as part of its weapons program—including chemically processed uranium and graphite. (See ACT, December 2008.)

IAEA officials have said that the uranium particles found at the site could be consistent with nuclear fuel. Syria has not declared any such fuel to the IAEA. Adding to such concerns, a Sept. 6 report by the Institute for Science and International Security cited unnamed U.S. officials as saying that some intelligence information indicated one of the suspect sites associated with Dair al Zour might be a fuel fabrication facility.

The recent IAEA report noted the agency’s continued investigation into previously undeclared experiments Syria carried out at its Miniature Neutron Source Reactor in Damascus. Last year, the agency discovered chemically processed uranium particles not declared as part of Syria’s nuclear research efforts. After initially providing explanations inconsistent with the IAEA findings, Syria admitted to carrying out small-scale uranium-conversion and -irradiation experiments at the facility.

The Sept. 6 IAEA report said Syria had agreed to a “plan of action” with the agency to resolve the agency’s questions about the activities at the Damascus reactor as well as the agency’s request for access to Syria’s phosphoric acid purification plant at Homs.

The Homs plant extracts yellowcake, or milled uranium oxide, from phosphates. The agency is seeking to determine whether the Homs plant had produced larger quantities of yellowcake than Syria has reported. Yellowcake is a precursor for nuclear fuel.

Russian-Syrian Missile Deal

Meanwhile, Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov told reporters in Washington Sept. 17 that Moscow would go ahead with the sale of about 70 P-800 Yakhont anti-ship cruise missiles to Syria despite U.S. and Israeli objections. Noting that a contract for the missiles was signed in 2007, he said, “[W]e do not see the concerns expressed by [the United States and Israel] that these arms will fall into the hands of terrorists.”

The use of a Chinese-origin C-802 anti-ship cruise missile by Lebanese Hezbollah against an Israeli warship during the 2006 Israel-Lebanon conflict raised concerns about the transfer of such weapons to Hezbollah by its allies, Iran and Syria. Iran, which acquired the C-802 from China during the 1990s, is widely believed to have provided Hezbollah with the missile used in 2006.

The United States and Israel classify Lebanese Hezbollah as a terrorist organization, a designation not shared worldwide, including by Russia. Israel and Syria also technically remain in a state of conflict.

The Yakhont is a supersonic missile with a range of up to 300 kilometers, delivering a 200-kilogram payload.

 

The United States last month suggested that further measures may be required to open up Syrian sites to international nuclear inspectors, raising the prospect of a rarely used “special inspection” by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

IAEA, Iran Clash on Inspections Report

Peter Crail

Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) last month sparred over the agency’s inspections in Iran, with the IAEA saying Iran was uncooperative and Tehran responding by questioning the IAEA’s credibility and independence.

In a Sept. 13 public statement at the beginning of the week-long, closed-door meeting of the IAEA Board of Governors, Director-General Yukiya Amano said Iran “has not provided the necessary cooperation” to ensure that all of Iran’s nuclear activities are peaceful. He called on Tehran to abide by resolutions adopted by the board and the UN Security Council and to provide greater transparency. In reaction, Iran charged the agency with acting outside its mandate and bowing to political pressure. According to a Sept. 15 statement to the board published by Iran’s state-run Press TV, Iranian Ambassador to the IAEA Ali Asghar Soltanieh accused the agency of “entering into the political games of certain countries,” saying that it “definitely deviated from its Statute.”

The dispute was primarily based on a Sept. 6 report by Amano on the agency’s safeguards in Iran; the report highlighted a number of areas where Tehran has not provided the access or information requested by the IAEA. In particular, the document cites Tehran’s decision in June to remove two individuals familiar with Iran’s sensitive nuclear facilities from the list of inspectors that can take part in the agency’s monitoring efforts in the country. The IAEA said in the report that this de-designation, as it is known, “detracts from the Agency’s capability to implement effective and efficient safeguards in Iran.”

The report also says that Iran told the IAEA that the de-designation was in response to “false and wrong statements” in a May 31 report by Amano on Iran’s nuclear program. That report said the inspectors were informed, presumably by Iranian technicians, during a January visit that Iran had been carrying out research on pyroprocessing to produce uranium metal at a research laboratory but that, by the time inspectors returned in April, the related equipment had been removed. (See ACT, June 2010.) Iran denies that it carried out pyroprocessing work or that it relocated any equipment from the facility. Nuclear weapons experts have said that such pyroprocessing experiments could be useful in producing nuclear material for weapons. (See ACT, March 2010.)

The agency has stood by its findings and inspectors. In his Sept. 13 remarks to the board, Amano expressed his “full confidence in the professionalism and impartiality of the inspectors concerned.” He added that they are “very knowledgeable” about Iran and the nuclear fuel cycle.

Western countries criticized Iran for banning the inspectors and accused Tehran of trying to undercut the IAEA investigation. France, Germany, and the United Kingdom said in a joint statement to the 35-member board Sept. 15 that Iran is “trying to intimidate the agency” and undermine its ability to carry out its investigation. The three countries said Iran was targeting agency officials that have experience with Iran’s nuclear program, calling the move “troubling and reprehensible.”

IAEA comprehensive safeguards agreements require the agency to secure consent from a state for the inspectors taking part in monitoring activities. The agreements stipulate that the IAEA must propose alternatives for any inspectors a state does not accept.

The United States argues that Iran’s rejection of the inspectors falls in line with language in the agreements on cases in which a state undermines the agency’s work. According to Iran’s safeguards agreement with the agency, “If, as a result of the repeated refusal of the Government of Iran to accept the designation of Agency inspectors, inspections to be conducted under this Agreement would be impeded, such refusal shall be considered by the Board…with a view to its taking appropriate action.”

In a Sept. 15 statement obtained by Arms Control Today, Glyn Davies, the U.S. ambassador to the IAEA, said that Iran’s action warranted such board consideration because it was “unprecedented” for a state to ban inspectors “because they report accurately.”

IAEA comprehensive safeguards agreements, including Iran’s, provide for an arbitration mechanism to resolve a safeguards dispute between the agency and a state. In a Sept. 27 e-mail, a former IAEA safeguards official said an arbitration tribunal would be unlikely to conclude that Iran’s de-designation of the inspectors was prohibited by its safeguards agreement. “All the Director-General can do is to highlight in his reports the bad faith and obstruction tactics of Iran,” the former official said, adding that “[t]hat’s what he did.”

Iran defended its removal of the two inspectors from the designated list, maintaining that it was the right of any IAEA member to reject specific individuals. In his Sept. 15 statement to the board, Soltanieh said Iran has accepted 150 designated inspectors and “usually around 10 are inspecting Iran,” suggesting that the agency has many other individuals from which to choose.

Members of the Nonaligned Movement (NAM), a bloc representing 118 developing countries including Iran, backed Tehran’s claims during the meeting. In a Sept. 15 statement to the board published by Iran’s semiofficial Fars News Agency, the group “note[d] with concern” that the IAEA rejected Iran’s justification for barring the two inspectors, adding that safeguards agreements with the IAEA do not require states to justify such decisions to the agency.

Beyond the inspector designation issue, Iran also attacked the agency for citing elements of UN Security Council Resolution 1929—the latest sanctions resolution on Iran, adopted in June—in its Sept. 6 report. In his statement to the board, Soltanieh said Amano “unprecedentedly copied parts of the illegal [resolution]” in the report. Because the Security Council’s demands go beyond Iran’s IAEA safeguards obligations, they are illegitimate, Soltanieh said.

All Security Council resolutions on Iran have asked the IAEA chief to report to the council and the IAEA board on Iran’s compliance with council demands. Those demands include suspending all enrichment-related work, answering agency questions about possible nuclear weapons-related activities, and providing early design information on nuclear facilities Iran intends to construct.

Renewed Calls for Talks

The dispute at the IAEA comes at a time when six world powers and Iran have all expressed interest in new negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program.

Immediately following a Sept. 22 ministerial meeting, the “P5+1,” which comprises the five permanent members of the Security Council (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) and Germany, issued a joint statement calling on Iran to re-enter talks on its nuclear program.

“Our objective continues to be a comprehensive long-term negotiated solution which restores international confidence in the exclusively peaceful nature” of Iran’s nuclear activities, while “respecting Iran’s legitimate right to the peaceful use of nuclear energy,” the statement said.

The call for renewed talks follows a letter that EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton delivered to Iranian nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili in August on behalf of the P5+1, inviting Iran to negotiations.

The six countries also said they were prepared to hold talks with Iran on a nuclear fuel swap arrangement that would provide fuel for a medical isotope-producing reactor in Tehran in return for a portion of Iran’s low-enriched uranium (LEU). (See ACT, November 2009.) According to the transcript of a Sept. 22 background briefing, a senior U.S. official who took part in the ministerial meeting said the six countries “discussed the continued value of a phased approach to resolving the nuclear issue,” including through a “revised and updated” fuel swap arrangement. The United States originally proposed the arrangement last year.

Negotiations that France, Russia, and the United States (known as the Vienna Group) held with Iran last fall broke down after Tehran backed away from an initial agreement to ship 1,200 kilograms of its 4 percent-enriched LEU—about 75 percent of its known stockpile at the time—out of the country. Nuclear power reactors generally use LEU enriched to such enrichment levels.

In May, Brazil and Turkey sought to revive the fuel swap by securing agreement from Tehran to hold the LEU in Turkey until it received fuel for the medical reactor. By that time, however, Iran had begun producing 20 percent-enriched uranium, the level required for the Tehran reactor, and accumulated a larger amount of 4 percent-enriched LEU. The senior U.S. official said that both issues would have to be addressed in any fuel deal.

According to the Sept. 6 IAEA report, Iran has produced a total of about 2,800 kilograms of 4 percent-enriched LEU at its commercial-scale plant at Natanz.

The United States has stressed that the fuel swap does not address broader problems with Iran’s nuclear program and that the focus must be placed on comprehensive negotiations with the P5+1.

Iran has said that it would like to restart dialogue. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told reporters in New York Sept. 21 that “there is a good chance that talks will resume in the near future.” He repeated prior claims that Iran would halt the higher-level enrichment if the fuel swap were agreed.

Iranian calls for dialogue have focused on the LEU fuel deal rather than more comprehensive talks. In a Sept. 21 statement to the annual IAEA General Conference, Atomic Energy Organization of Iran head Ali Akbar Salehi called on the Vienna Group to resume fuel swap talks “without further delay.”

 

Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) last month sparred over the agency’s inspections in Iran, with the IAEA saying Iran was uncooperative and Tehran responding by questioning the IAEA’s credibility and independence.

Lawmakers Eye Fixes to Law on Nuclear Pacts

Daniel Horner

Key members of Congress from both parties last month expressed support for revising U.S. law on agreements for peaceful nuclear cooperation, citing a number of nuclear pacts that have been recently submitted to Congress or are being negotiated as showing the need for change.

At a Sept. 24 House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing, Chairman Howard Berman (D-Calif.) and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), the ranking member, talked about changes they planned to make or were considering. Ros-Lehtinen said she intended to introduce legislation, although she did not indicate when.

In an interview later that day, a congressional source who is following the issue closely said that “different people [in Congress] are working on different things.” The drafting process is still in the “nascent stages,” and there is no expectation that legislation will move this year, he said. He said he has not heard “any real objections” from congressional offices about pursuing the change. At the same time, no one involved “is under any illusions” that the job will be easy, as the administration is certain to object to any legislation that it sees as restricting its latitude to negotiate with other countries, he said.

A main focus of the hearing was how to use U.S. nuclear cooperation agreements—often called “123 agreements” after the section of the U.S. Atomic Energy Act that requires such pacts with U.S. nuclear trading partners—to control the dissemination of technologies for enriching uranium and reprocessing spent fuel. Those technologies can be used to produce highly enriched uranium or plutonium for nuclear weapons.

The new 123 agreement with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has been characterized as a model for U.S. nuclear cooperation policy. In that agreement, the UAE commits itself to refrain from pursuing enrichment or reprocessing. Pursuing such programs would be grounds for the United States to halt nuclear cooperation with the UAE, an unprecedented provision in U.S. cooperation agreements.

The agreement was originally negotiated by the Bush administration, which signed it just before leaving office in January 2009. (See ACT, March 2009.) After some lawmakers questioned whether the UAE pledge was legally binding, the Obama administration negotiated a new version of the agreement, signing it and submitting it to Congress in May 2009.

Like the Bush administration, the Obama administration hailed the pact as a model for future agreements, particularly in the Middle East. In his statement accompanying the agreement’s submittal to Congress on May 21, 2009, President Barack Obama said the pact “has the potential to serve as a model for other countries in the region that wish to pursue responsible nuclear energy development.”

However, the administration apparently has had difficulty replicating the provisions of the UAE agreement in pacts with other countries.

Jordan and Vietnam

Negotiations on a 123 agreement with Jordan—another cooperation agreement for which negotiations have spanned the Bush and Obama administrations—reportedly have been held up by Jordanian objections to UAE-style provisions on enrichment and reprocessing. The administration apparently is not insisting on such a provision in discussions with Vietnam, which has signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU)—a possible precursor of a 123 agreement—with the United States. That MOU reportedly does not contain commitments similar to the ones in the UAE agreement and in MOUs with Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.

In an Aug. 5 press briefing, Department of State spokesman P.J. Crowley declined to say directly whether a U.S. nuclear cooperation agreement with Vietnam would require that country to forgo uranium enrichment. With regard to the UAE model, he said, “We certainly want to see other countries make that same kind of decision and that same kind of agreement in their own interest as the administration pursues its nonproliferation agenda.” However, he said that “the interests and needs of particular countries will vary from one to the other” and that “if Vietnam chooses, as part of its own self-interest and exercising its right under the [nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty] to enrichment, that is a decision for them to make. It’s not a decision for the United States to make.”

At a July 27 nuclear industry conference, a U.S. official said of the UAE agreement, “I think that’s the direction we’re going to go in for the Middle East.” In his remarks and a brief interview afterward, he did not say whether the United States was pushing for the same terms with Vietnam.

The Jordan agreement is “very, very close,” but the “pressure is off” because there is not enough time left in the current Congress for the agreement, he said. Under U.S. law, most nuclear cooperation agreements can enter into force without a congressional vote approving them if they lie before Congress for 90 days of so-called continuous session without Congress blocking them. However, if a Congress ends with only part of the 90-day period elapsed, the congressional clock would have to restart after a new Congress takes office.

In his comments at the meeting, the official declined to say whether the Jordan agreement would have a UAE-style provision on enrichment and reprocessing.

Reuters reported Sept. 28 that Jordan expects to sign an agreement by the end of the year. The article quoted Kamal Khdier, the director of planning for the Jordan Atomic Energy Commission, as saying the two sides had reached a compromise that allows Jordan to keep open the option of enrichment. The report could not be confirmed by Arms Control Today’s deadline.

A provision in the U.S.-UAE agreement says that the terms of that pact “shall be no less favorable in scope and effect than those which may be accorded, from time to time, to any other non-nuclear-weapon State in the Middle East.” If another Middle Eastern country does obtain more favorable terms, the UAE can request consultations with the United States “regarding the possibility of amending this Agreement so that the position described above is restored.”

In Sept. 7 remarks at the HenryL.StimsonCenter, Deputy Energy Secretary Daniel Poneman emphasized that the Vietnam MOU should not necessarily be compared to the UAE agreement. He said the United States is “certainly not offering to Vietnam any kind of deal in which we—certainly at this stage—get into any kind of pledges about what they should or should not be doing to their own fuel cycle; that would be inappropriate.” He also indicated that the United States would not necessarily be pressing for that kind of restraint later in the negotiations with Vietnam or Jordan.

Asked if the administration had criteria that varied from one region to another for determining when it should press for such restraint, he said, “I think the critical factor is going to be that we’re going to try to make sure that the guiding principle throughout is a reliance on market methods.” He was referring to an effort supported by Obama, President George W. Bush,  and others to set up an international mechanism that would ensure countries would have reliable access to nuclear fuel at a reasonable cost so that the countries have less incentive to pursue indigenous enrichment programs.

Two sources who follow the issue closely said last month that the administration is reviewing its policy on nuclear cooperation agreements. They suggested that the resulting uncertainty over the policy may account for some of the variations in recent administration descriptions of it.

Enforcing Standards

At the Sept. 24 hearing, Berman asked what leverage the United States has if it presses potential nuclear partners to accept conditions matching those in the UAE agreement. Some observers have argued that the United States currently has very little because of its limited ability to insist that non-U.S. suppliers require the same nonproliferation conditions the United States does.

To address that point, Henry Sokolski of the NonproliferationPolicyEducationCenter has said Congress should pass legislation disqualifying foreign nuclear companies doing business in the United States from benefits such as U.S. loan guarantees if the companies and their governments undercut U.S. nonproliferation policy.

In his opening statement at the hearing, Berman said the United States should seek the same commitment it received from the UAE “for every new nuclear cooperation agreement that it negotiates in all regions of the world” and “should also consider making this an additional statutory requirement in the Atomic Energy Act.”

Near the end of the hearing, he said, “The Vietnam story is not over yet.”

Ros-Lehtinen said one element of the bill she is drafting is a requirement that “our potential partners permanently forego the manufacture of nuclear fuel.”

She said “the most urgently needed change” in U.S. nonproliferation law is to require an affirmative vote to approve nuclear cooperation agreements.

Ros-Lehtinen cited the pending U.S.-Russian 123 agreement as an example of the need for that revision. She blasted “the inability of the previous and current administrations to certify that the Russian government, businesses, and individuals were no longer assisting Iran’s nuclear and missile programs and that the Russian government was fully cooperating with the U.S. in our efforts to stop Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.” (See ACT, June 2010.)

She called the pact a “political payoff to the Russians, pure and simple” and said it “cannot be defended on its merits.”

Thomas Graham Jr., a former U.S. nonproliferation official who is now chairman of Lightbridge Corporation, testified that the agreement would correct a “historical anomaly” and give the United States an agreement with its “indispensable” nonproliferation partner.

The Obama administration submitted the Russian agreement to Congress in May. When Congress adjourned at the end of September, the agreement still needed another 15 days to reach the required 90-day threshold, according to a congressional source. The length of Congress’ postelection sessions will determine whether it meets that mark or if the administration will have to resubmit the agreement, starting a new congressional clock, after the new Congress takes office in January.

 

Key members of Congress from both parties last month expressed support for revising U.S. law on agreements for peaceful nuclear cooperation, citing a number of nuclear pacts that have been recently submitted to Congress or are being negotiated as showing the need for change.

At a Sept. 24 House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing, Chairman Howard Berman (D-Calif.) and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), the ranking member, talked about changes they planned to make or were considering. Ros-Lehtinen said she intended to introduce legislation, although she did not indicate when.

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