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June 2, 2022
December 2010
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Sunday, December 5, 2010
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UN Tackles Disarmament Machinery

Peter Crail

Following a rare high-level meeting of UN members in September discussing ways to “revitalize” UN bodies addressing disarmament and nonproliferation, this year’s First Committee deliberations paid considerable attention to the role and methods of the international “disarmament machinery.”

At the heart of the discussions on the disarmament machinery lies an increasing frustration with the failure of the Conference on Disarmament (CD), the UN disarmament negotiating forum, to commence substantive work over the past 12 years. The high-level meeting convened by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon Sept. 24 focused particularly on the working methods of the CD, which requires consensus for substantive as well as procedural issues, and placed the issue on the First Committee agenda this fall. (See ACT, October 2010.)

Diplomatic sources said in October that the First Committee discussions following that meeting only retraced the divisions that existed. The First Committee is the UN General Assembly forum in which UN members discuss disarmament and international security matters.

Although some delegations argued in the committee that the difficulties faced in the disarmament bodies are related to a lack of political will rather than the machinery itself, others pointed specifically to the workings of the UN bodies as hurdles to progress on disarmament issues.

“It is particularly frustrating that, at a time when the momentum on disarmament has rarely been stronger, the machinery itself has become an obstacle to capitalize on this momentum,” Ambassador Hilde Skorpen of Norway said during an Oct. 18 debate on the topic.

A number of countries, including Australia, Japan, and the United States, echoed her sentiments and suggested that if the CD remained unable to begin negotiations on a treaty banning the production of fissile material, such a treaty should be pursued outside the CD.

The CD adopted a work program last year for the first time in more than a decade, but since then, Pakistan has blocked the start of negotiations, expressing concerns that a fissile material cutoff treaty (FMCT) would not affect India’s existing stocks of fissile material.

In an Oct. 18 statement, Laura Kennedy, U.S. permanent representative to the CD, said that “it strikes us as unwarranted for a single country to abuse the consensus principle and thereby frustrate everyone’s desire to resume serious disarmament efforts.”

Islamabad’s opposition to language on an FMCT in the First Committee was far more pronounced than in previous years. Although Pakistan joined the consensus in a resolution supporting the commencement of negotiations on such a treaty last year, it was the sole country to vote in opposition in October. North Korea and Syria abstained.

Pakistan also cast the sole “no” votes against amendments calling for FMCT negotiations in two separate resolutions on nuclear disarmament and joined China and North Korea in voting against a similar amendment in a third such resolution. The third resolution, sponsored by Japan, not only promoted FMCT negotiations, but also called on states to declare moratoriums on fissile material production.

China is the only recognized nuclear-weapon state not to have declared such a moratorium, although it is widely believed to have stopped fissile material production in the early 1990s.

In an Oct. 14 statement explaining Islamabad’s position on an FMCT, Pakistani Permanent Representative to the CD Zamir Akram suggested that a 2008 exemption for civilian cooperation with India in the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) “shall further accentuate the existing asymmetry of fissile material stockpiles in our region.” (See ACT, October 2008.)

The NSG is an informal collection of 46 major suppliers of nuclear goods.

U.S. Hesitant on Space Initiatives

In the First Committee’s discussion of outer space and space security issues, the United States continued to highlight its ongoing consideration of transparency and confidence-building measures in outer space and of legally binding space security measures following its decision to carry out a space policy review last year. Washington released its new space policy in June in a document promoting confidence-building measures in space and stating an openness to arms control measures “if they are equitable, effectively verifiable, and enhance the national security of the United States and its allies.” (See ACT, September 2010.)

Between 2006 and 2009, the United States opposed multilateral arms control initiatives on space.

In spite of the policy shift, the Obama administration indicated that it still would not vote in favor of the specific First Committee resolutions on space, including those promoting transparency and confidence-building steps, and legally binding arrangements.

The United States abstained on a Russian-sponsored resolution calling for a group of governmental experts to study the prospect of transparency and confidence-building measures in outer space because of a preambular reference to a Chinese-Russian proposal on a treaty banning weapons in outer space in the CD.

In an Oct. 22 statement, Kennedy said the United States could not support “artificial linkages” between transparency and confidence-building measures on the one hand and “fundamentally flawed proposals for arms control” such as the Chinese-Russian treaty proposal on the other. She noted that China and Russia acknowledge that such a treaty is unverifiable and that it does not prohibit the development of ground-based anti-satellite weapons.

The measure was otherwise adopted with 167 countries voting in favor, none opposed, and none besides the United States abstaining.

The United States continued to abstain on the annual resolution in the CD calling for the negotiation of a treaty on preventing an arms race in space. U.S. officials have said that Washington supports discussions, but not negotiations, on this topic at the CD.

Debate on Small Arms

Prolonged negotiations took place during the committee session over the adoption of a resolution tabled by Colombia, Japan, and South Africa on combating the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons.

Although no states opposed the measure, Mexico submitted an amendment stating that such illicit trade hampers social and economic development. The language in the amendment was agreed at a June meeting, chaired by Mexico, of states-parties to the UN program of action on small arms, an international instrument on combating illicit small arms proliferation. (See ACT, July/August 2010.)

The amendment also called for the 2012 program of action review conference to consider ways to strengthen the accord.

Japan indicated that the Mexican language was included in an initial committee draft, but that Japan could not obtain consensus on the language and removed it. Mexico insisted that it would not favor the adoption of the resolution without the amended language.

In an Oct. 29 vote, the Mexican amendment was defeated by a vote of 19-54, with 70 countries abstaining. The states voting against the amendment included major industrialized countries, including the United States, and many developing nations.

The original resolution then was adopted with 167 votes and Mexico abstaining.


Following a rare high-level meeting of UN members in September discussing ways to “revitalize” UN bodies addressing disarmament and nonproliferation, this year’s First Committee deliberations paid considerable attention to the role and methods of the international “disarmament machinery.”

U.S. Consulting on Middle East Meeting

Alfred Nurja

U.S. consultations with Russia, the United Kingdom, the United Nations, and other key parties to identify a facilitator and a host country for the planned 2012 conference on establishing a zone free of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in the Middle East are under way, a Department of State official said in a Nov. 17 interview.

“Since the facilitator must have the trust of all the countries in the region, including Israel, and the international clout to bring all parties together, the selection is an important issue that is being carefully considered,” he said. “There is no timeline at this point,” he added.

The 2012 conference was one of the key steps endorsed by the 2010 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference in May. (See ACT, June 2010.) It marked the first time that NPT parties had been able to adopt concrete measures on implementing a 1995 resolution on the subject.

Another U.S. official, Special Representative of the President for Nuclear Nonproliferation Susan Burk, said the 2012 conference “must draw the mandate from the region and operate by consensus of all countries concerned.” Burk, the Obama administration’s lead official at the NPT review conference, made the comments on the sidelines of a Nov. 18 forum in Washington.

In a Nov. 11 e-mail to Arms Control Today, Sameh Aboul-Enein, Egypt’s deputy ambassador to the United Kingdom, said that “Egypt intends to engage constructively with all concerned parties to implement the practical steps adopted.” Aboul-Enein, who was part of the Egyptian delegation at the review conference, added that “the road ahead is not easy but it’s the only way forward.”

Burk and Aboul-Enein attended an Oct. 25 conference organized by the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies on the Middle East WMD-free zone.

It remains unclear what the agenda items of the proposed 2012 conference will be, but according to a U.S. statement at the UN General Assembly First Committee in October, “[H]olding this conference will also require agreement to discuss a broad agenda, to include regional security issues, verification and compliance, and all categories of weapons of mass destruction.” The United States already has begun to work with others to advance this agenda, the statement added.

The statement came after the United States voted against an Arab League draft resolution on “The Risk of Nuclear Proliferation in the Middle East,” which focused on Israel.

Israel, which has said that it supports the long-term vision of a WMD-free zone in the region, has conditioned forward movement on that objective with the existence of durable peace in the region and other states’ compliance with arms control and nonproliferation obligations. “[T]he basic prerequisites for reaching that vision do not exist,” Eyal Propper, director of the Arms Control Department at the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told the First Committee this October.

The 2012 “conference cannot be an event used to ramp up pressure on Israel,” the State Department official said.




Nigeria Intercepts Iran Arms Shipment

Peter Crail

Nigeria has seized a weapons shipment from Iran that appears to violate a UN arms embargo, Nigerian Foreign Minister Henry Odein Ajumogobia told reporters in New York Nov. 16.

After “preliminary investigations,” Nigeria’s permanent mission in New York reported the October seizure to a UN sanctions committee, Ajumogobia said.

Nigerian officials said the shipment contained artillery rockets and small arms and ammunition. The French-based company CMA CGM, which transported the containers, said in an Oct. 30 statement that the shipping containers were labeled as “packages of glass wool and pallets of stone” and were picked up in the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas and unloaded in the Nigerian port of Lagos in July, where they were transferred to a customs depot.

Two sets of shipping documents obtained by the Nigerian authorities were found to have been associated with the 13-container shipment. An initial set consigned the containers to a Nigerian, while a second set said that the shipment was bound for Gambia. Ajumogobia said the investigation into the actual destination was continuing.

The Gambian government issued a statement Nov. 22 indicating that it was severing all diplomatic and economic ties with Iran, providing Iranian officials with 48 hours to leave the country. The statement did not make any mention of the arms shipment.

The shipment is alleged to have violated a 2007 UN Security Council resolution prohibiting Iran from transferring “any arms or related material.” This June, the council adopted additional sanctions that tightened enforcement of the penalties against Iran, calling on all countries to inspect shipments to or from Iran suspected of violating the sanctions.

Nigeria’s referral of the matter to the Security Council follows on the heels of a Nov. 12 meeting between Ajumogobia and Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki on the arms shipment.

During a press conference following that meeting, Ajumogobia pledged that Nigeria would report the matter to the council as required if the weapons were determined to be a breach of UN sanctions. Nigeria currently holds a rotating seat on the 15-member council.

Mottaki, however, told reporters in Afghanistan Nov. 15 that the matter was a “misunderstanding” that had been “cleared up” with Nigeria. “A private company which had sold conventional and defensive weapons to a West African country had transferred the shipment through Nigeria,” he said.

The UN sanctions bar Iranian nationals from transferring arms as well.

Nigerian authorities questioned an Iranian national in the capital of Abuja in connection with the shipment. Ajumogobia said Nov. 16 that the individual was being interrogated and that “he’s been cooperating with the security agents.”

Similar shipments have been found in the past to have violated the UN embargo on Iranian arms transfers. Last December, a report by the committee overseeing the sanctions on Iran said that three such illicit arms shipments had been reported in 2009.

In all three cases, the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines (IRISL) was found to be responsible for transporting the shipments. The UN sanctions adopted in June require that countries and firms “exercise vigilance” when doing business with IRISL, and U.S. and EU sanctions prohibit any business with the transporter.

Talks’ Agenda, Venue Undecided

Meanwhile, the months-long effort by the five permanent members of the Security Council and Germany (the “P5+1”) to renew talks with Tehran over its nuclear program continued in November, with a date of Dec. 5 agreed for those negotiations. EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton, who represents the P5+1, announced Nov. 12 that the six countries had accepted the December date proposed by Iran in a Nov. 9 letter.

In late November, however, the two sides continued to disagree over the location of the talks. Iran proposed meeting in Istanbul, but U.S. and European officials maintained that the meeting should occur in Geneva or Vienna, where similar talks among the seven countries have been held previously.

“Istanbul could still be a location for a second or follow-on meeting, but the general consensus is that the first meeting should be somewhere in central Europe,” Department of State spokesman P.J. Crowley told a Nov. 12 press briefing.

Iran previously had proposed that Turkey, as well as Brazil, join the talks, a prospect that Western countries rejected. Brazil, Iran, and Turkey agreed in May on a plan to swap Iranian low-enriched uranium (LEU) for fuel for a research reactor. (See ACT, June 2010.) That plan revived a similar U.S. proposal; there was a tentative agreement on it last October, but Iran ultimately backed away from it.

The United States and its allies now insist that the October arrangement must be altered to account for the larger amount of LEU that Iran has stockpiled since that time, which the West fears could be further enriched to weapons-grade levels if Iran chose to do so.

Iran’s LEU remains under International Atomic Energy Agency monitoring.

The Western countries also have maintained that the discussions with Iran must address broader concerns raised by its nuclear program, in particular its uranium-enrichment activities, which the Security Council has demanded that Iran suspend. (See ACT, October 2010.) Tehran, however, has suggested that its nuclear program is not up for discussion.

The semiofficial Iranian Students News Agency quoted Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast as stating Nov. 9 that the talks “will not be about Iran’s nuclear issue at all.”

However, Mottaki suggested the following day that the agenda of the meeting is still up for discussion. “The agenda is usually set before the meeting, but sometimes the involved parties agree to discuss the desired agenda during the session,” he told a news conference in Tehran Nov. 10.


Saudi Arms Deal Moves Forward

Matt Sugrue

A $60 billion U.S. arms sale to Saudi Arabia passed a key deadline last month without legislators blocking the deal although 198 House members signed a letter raising questions about it.

The letter, coordinated by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Howard Berman (D-Calif.) and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), the panel’s ranking member, was sent to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates nine days before the expiration of the legally required congressional review period.

In the Nov. 10 letter, legislators questioned “the rationale for a sale of such magnitude” to Saudi Arabia, citing concerns about the sale’s impact on regional stability and its challenge to Israel’s “qualitative military edge” (QME).

The letter also indicated doubts about Saudi Arabia’s proliferation credentials. “What steps has Saudi Arabia taken to support U.S. counterproliferation efforts, and to substantially improve their own non-proliferation record?” the letter asks.

Clinton and Gates responded to the questions in a letter dated Nov. 16, defending Saudi counterproliferation efforts. They argued that Saudi Arabia “has been responsive to UNSCR [UN Security Council Resolution] 1540 reporting requirements” and pointed to Riyadh hosting a December 2010 Gulf Cooperation Council workshop devoted to Resolution 1540 issues. That 2004 binding UN resolution requires member states to take effective measures against the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

They described Saudi cooperation on nuclear energy as positive, identifying a 2008 memorandum of understanding that “contains a statement of intent by Saudi Arabia to rely on the international market for fuel cycle services as an alternative to the pursuit of enrichment or reprocessing capabilities.”

Gates and Clinton also identified border and trade control issues as an important area of ongoing cooperation. In January 2011, a senior Saudi delegation is expected to visit Washington to discuss the next steps on these topics, according to the letter.

The secretaries’ response addressed concerns that the U.S.-Saudi sale will undermine Israel’s QME. “We concluded, as required by law and after a thorough interagency assessment, that this sale will not negatively impact Israel’s security interests or its QME,” the letter states.

The Obama administration provided formal notification to Congress on Oct. 20, which marked the start of the 30 calendar days mandated by the Arms Export Control Act for legislators to review such deals.

On Nov. 18, Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) introduced a joint resolution (H.J. Res. 99) in an attempt block the sale. Congress did not act on the resolution, which had two co-sponsors, Reps. Shelley Berkley (D-Nev.) and Christopher Carney (D-Pa.).

The deal includes 84 F-15SA tactical fighters, the upgrade of Saudi Arabia’s existing fleet of 70 F-15Ss to the F-15SA configuration, 70 Apache Longbow attack helicopters, 72 Blackhawk helicopters, and additional light attack helicopters and trainers.

The sale also includes munitions: 500 AIM-120C/7 advanced medium-range air-to-air missiles, 1,000 joint direct attack munitions (JDAMs), more than 2,000 additional laser- and GPS-guided bombs, more than 4,000 Hellfire missiles, and 1,300 cluster bombs. The export of the sensor-fused cluster bombs in the sale are permitted under U.S. policy, but prohibited by the Convention on Cluster Munitions. (See ACT, September 2008.) Neither the United States nor Saudi Arabia is a party to that treaty.

During an Oct. 20 press briefing announcing the sale, Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs Andrew Shapiro stated that the “final amount of the sale may well be less than the not-to-exceed estimate” of $60 billion.

Iran and Yemen

Shapiro and Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs Alexander Vershbow also told reporters that Yemen and Iran factored into the negotiations over the sale.

Vershbow said some of the helicopters included in the deal have “potential roles” against a rebel group, the Houthis, that has been fighting the Yemeni government since 2004. Saudi Arabia has launched military actions against the group, which is based in northern Yemen. Yemen has claimed that the Houthis receive support from outside sources, primarily Tehran. Iran and the Houthis have denied that Iran provides funding to the rebel group.

In their letter, Clinton and Gates said, “Saudi Arabia faces an Iranian threat, including destabilizing actions in the region, and in the past year has faced Houthi attacks along its border with Yemen.”

Congress can block an arms sale by passing a joint resolution of disapproval, which prohibits the executive branch from issuing a formal letter of offer.

For most countries, including Saudi Arabia, congressional notification is required if the sale involves $14 million or more in “major defense equipment,” $50 million or more in “defense articles or services,” or $200 million or more in “design and construction services.”

After the 30-day notification period has passed, Congress can intervene in the arms sale by passing laws that block parts of the sale or the entire sale.

Previous Sales Challenged

Although Saudi Arabia has been a top customer for U.S. arms, its purchases have a history of spurring congressional resistance.

The Bush administration notified Congress in January 2008 of its intention to sell Saudi Arabia 900 JDAM bomb guidance kits. A joint resolution of disapproval was introduced into the House and the Senate, but did not pass.

The Senate resolution was introduced after the 30-day notification period for the JDAMs and encompassed three other U.S. arms sales to Saudi Arabia. It tied them to Riyadh’s oil production, stating that, “despite the refusal of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to increase its oil production, the Administration continues to reward Saudi Arabia with lucrative arms deals.”

In 1986, Congress voted 73-22 for a joint resolution of disapproval (S.J. Res. 316) blocking the sale of Sidewinder, Harpoon, and Stinger missiles to Saudi Arabia. President Ronald Reagan vetoed the resolution, but agreed to remove the controversial Stinger missiles from the sale. Congress then voted 66-34 to override the veto, one vote short of the two-thirds majority needed.

This June, the Congressional Research Service reported that, between 1950 and 2006, the United States supplied Saudi Arabia with $62.7 billion worth of “weapons, military equipment, and related services through Foreign Military Sales.”

In the Nov. 10 letter, the legislators cited a September Government Accountability Office report that said the Department of State and the Department of Defense “did not consistently document how arms transfers to [Persian] Gulf countries advanced U.S. foreign policy and national security goals.”


Obama Pushes for Vote on New START

Tom Z. Collina

Months of quiet negotiations between the White House and Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) on the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) broke down in November after Kyl announced he did not think there would be time to vote on the treaty in the current postelection session of Congress.

President Barack Obama responded by upping the ante and calling for a Senate vote on New START, with or without Kyl’s support. “It is a national security imperative that the United States ratify the New START treaty this year,” Obama told White House reporters Nov. 18. “I’m confident that we should be able to get the votes,” he said. Administration talks with the Republican leadership are continuing.

Alluding to the postelection political environment in Washington, Obama told reporters Nov. 20 in Lisbon that “there’s no other reason not to [ratify New START] than the fact that Washington has become a very partisan place.” He added, “My expectation is that my Republican friends in the Senate will ultimately conclude that it makes sense for us to do this.”

The apparent failure in talks with Kyl, who represents the Senate Republican leadership, means that the White House cannot count on him to deliver Republican votes for New START. Instead the Obama administration may need to find Republican senators who would be willing to split from their party and vote for the treaty. Signed by the United States and Russia in April, the pact currently needs nine Republican votes to pass the full Senate, but will need 14 next year after new senators take office in January. Under the Constitution, the Senate must approve treaties with a two-thirds majority, or 67 votes, before they can be ratified by the president.

Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), the only Republican to openly support a New START vote this year, told reporters Nov. 17 that the treaty should be brought up for a floor vote even if there is no deal with Kyl. “I think when it finally comes down to it, we have [a] sufficient number of senators who do have a sense of our national security. This is the time, this is the priority. Do it,” he said.

Aiming for a Deal

The Obama administration had been maneuvering to avoid a partisan showdown over New START by working out a deal with Senate Republican leaders in advance. According to a Nov. 17 White House timeline, administration officials have met or talked with Kyl or his staff about the treaty at least 30 times since August 2009, including direct contact by Vice President Joe Biden. These discussions dealt mainly with Kyl’s concern that the nuclear weapons budget for the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) was not funded adequately, administration officials said.

In February, the administration requested an increase of 10 percent over fiscal year 2010 in the fiscal year 2011 budget. The administration successfully pressed Congress to include the increase in the continuing resolution for fiscal year 2011 that Congress passed in late September. Continuing resolutions, which provide funding to the government when Congress has not passed appropriations bills, generally keep spending at the previous year’s level for most agencies. In May, the White House announced it would spend $80 billion on the NNSA over the next decade, an increase of $10 billion, or 14 percent, over the baseline budget, along with $100 billion for the Pentagon to fund upgrades to strategic delivery systems.

Kyl, however, continued to argue that the $80 billion over 10 years for the NNSA was not enough and that he wanted to see the increases reflected in the fiscal year 2012 budget. Administration budgets normally are not released until February of the preceding fiscal year, so the fiscal year 2012 budget would not be released until next February. Kyl told Reuters Aug. 4 that because it would be difficult to finalize these numbers before the November election, the Senate might need to wait until a postelection session to vote on New START this year.

On Nov. 12, Principal Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Policy James Miller, U.S. Strategic Command head Gen. Kevin Chilton, and NNSA Principal Deputy Administrator Neile Miller flew to Arizona to meet in person with Kyl and his staff to brief Kyl on the administration’s new estimates for the NNSA weapons activities budget. According to administration officials, during the three-hour meeting they told Kyl that the fiscal year 2012 budget request had been increased by $600 million to $7.6 billion, that funding would increase by $4.1 billion over the next five years, and that the 10-year total was now $85 billion, or $15 billion (21 percent) above the baseline. It is highly unusual to have finalized 2012 budget numbers this early in the process, White House officials said.

White House officials apparently thought they had a deal. Gary Samore, the National Security Council coordinator for arms control and nonproliferation, said Nov. 18 at a roundtable discussion with journalists that after the Nov. 12 meeting, the two sides had “reached basic agreement on what that funding level should be,” according to Global Security Newswire. Kyl said, “We’ve probably got all we’re going to get out of them in terms of dollar commitments,” The New York Times reported Nov. 25.

Those comments came after Kyl’s surprise announcement Nov. 16 that he “did not think” the treaty could be completed in the postelection session given the “complex and unresolved issues related to START and modernization.” In a statement issued by his office, Kyl said he appreciated “the recent effort by the Administration to address some of the issues that we have raised” and that he looked forward to continuing to work with administration officials.

White House officials and their Senate allies expressed frustration. At a Nov. 17 press conference, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, which approved the treaty Sept. 16 with a bipartisan 14-4 vote, said that, after months of talks, Kyl had no right now to say there was not enough time to vote. Kerry said he had delayed a committee vote over the summer, at Republicans’ request, to give them more time. (See ACT, October 2010.) “As of now, there is no substantive disagreement on this treaty,” said Kerry.

“It was Senator Kyl himself who suggested that the lame duck [postelection session] would be an appropriate time to look at the [New] START treaty,” a senior administration official told The Cable Nov. 19. “It’s ready for a vote and we had some expectation, although not a guarantee, that the lame duck was a possibility.” Kyl’s office did not respond to a request for comment.

Lugar explained his Republican colleagues’ behavior to The Cable by saying, “Sometimes when you prefer not to vote, you attempt to find reasons not to vote.”

Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), who controls the Senate schedule, said in a Nov. 17 statement, “I assure Senator Kyl and others concerned about the fate of this treaty that the Senate will be in session after Thanksgiving and will have time to consider and ratify it.” The Senate returned Nov. 29.

Obama’s Full-Court Press

After Kyl’s Nov. 16 statement, the White House quickly stepped up its efforts to court moderate Republicans to vote for New START. On Nov. 18, Obama hosted a White House meeting of a bipartisan group of former national security officials, including three former secretaries of state, James A. Baker, Henry Kissinger, and Madeleine Albright; former national security adviser Brent Scowcroft; and former Secretary of Defense William Perry. Joint Chiefs of Staff Vice Chairman Marine Gen. James Cartwright also attended the meeting.

Obama stressed that a treaty vote could not be postponed until 2011 and that the consequences of failure to ratify would be significant. “This is not a matter that can be delayed,” Obama told reporters after the session. “Every month that goes by without a treaty means that we are not able to verify what’s going on on the ground in Russia. And if we delay indefinitely, American leadership on nonproliferation and America’s national security will be weakened,” he said. U.S. on-site monitoring of Russian strategic weapons ended Dec. 5, 2009, when the original START expired.

In his Nov. 20 radio address, Obama said that “Russia has been indispensable to our efforts to enforce strong sanctions on Iran, to secure loose nuclear material from terrorists, and to equip our troops in Afghanistan. All of this will be put to risk if the Senate does not pass the New START treaty.”

At Washington’s request, Russia also canceled its planned sale of the S-300 anti-aircraft system to Tehran.

Obama took his message to the Nov. 19-20 NATO summit in Lisbon, where U.S. allies overwhelmingly spoke in support of New START. “[T]the message that I’ve received since I’ve arrived from my fellow leaders here at NATO could not be clearer—New START will strengthen our alliance, and it will strengthen European security,” Obama told reporters Nov. 19.

“We see this treaty as a prologue, as an entrance to start talks about substrategic weaponry,” Lithuanian Foreign Minister Audronius Azubalis said Nov. 20, appearing with the foreign ministers of Bulgaria, Denmark, Hungary, Latvia, and Norway, who all called for New START ratification. “We who are living in eastern Europe especially, know this,” he said. New START, which would reduce U.S. and Russian strategic nuclear arsenals by about 30 percent from current treaty levels, does not cover short-range weapons deployed by the United States and Russia in Europe. Obama has said that once New START is in force, he intends to initiate a new round of talks with Russia on tactical, or substrategic, nuclear weapons.

Administration officials also point out that, without ratification, congressional support for increases to the NNSA budget to modernize the nuclear weapons production complex may falter. “Support for the treaty also brings support for modernization of the U.S. nuclear enterprise,” Gates said Nov. 20 in Santiago, Chile. “I think the failure to ratify the treaty puts that at high risk.”

At a Nov. 17 press conference with Kerry and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Lugar was blunt: “[W]e are at a point where we’re unlikely to have either the treaty or modernization unless we get real.”

Kyl told NBC’s Meet the Press Nov. 28 that he saw little chance that New START could be completed this year, unless Reid allowed “a couple of weeks for full debate and amendment.” Kyl and Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) sent a Nov. 24 memo to Republican colleagues saying that the administration’s revised NNSA budget plan addressed some but not all of their concerns. In particular, Kyl and Corker wrote, the administration should seek “responsible advance funding mechanisms” for the NNSA, such as “three-year rolling funding” or a commitment to seek advance funding in fiscal year 2013.

Appearing on the same show with Kyl, Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), the majority whip, responded that there was time to debate the issues and hold a vote “in a responsible way before we break for Christmas.”

Some formerly skeptical Republican senators appear to be leaning Durbin’s way.  For example, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), a leading Republican voice on defense issues who has been highly critical of the treaty, told ABC’s Good Morning America Nov. 30, “I believe we can move forward” with the treaty by the end of the year. Sen. George Voinovich (R-Ohio) has suggested in comments to the media that he also is leaning toward its ratification this year.

When asked Nov. 30 if New START would be voted on this year, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) indicated he was not opposed and said,  “[I]t will be up to the majority leader, Senator Reid, to decide.”


Months of quiet negotiations between the White House and Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) on the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) broke down in November after Kyl announced he did not think there would be time to vote on the treaty in the current postelection session of Congress.

India Seen Unlikely to Join NSG Soon

Daniel Horner

In spite of a U.S. pledge of support for Indian membership in the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), New Delhi is not likely to enter the group anytime soon, sources said last month.

President Barack Obama made the commitment of support in a Nov. 8 joint statement with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during Obama’s visit to India.

Part of the reason for the long timeline for Indian entry is that the NSG, which now has 46 members, makes decisions by consensus, the sources said. But they also cited the multistage process that would be required before India was eligible, as well as the commitment by the United States and other NSG countries to reach agreement on a long-standing issue—the revision of the group’s export guidelines on transfers of certain nuclear technology—before they took up the question of Indian membership.

India would be the first member of the NSG that is not a party to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). A key criterion for membership in the group is that the country is a party to and complying with the NPT or a nuclear-weapon-free-zone treaty.

Until two years ago, India was not eligible to receive exports from NSG members because it is a non-NPT state and does not open all its nuclear facilities to international inspections. But in response to a U.S.-led initiative, the group agreed to lift that requirement for India in return for certain nonproliferation “commitments and actions.” (See ACT, October 2008.) The United States created a similar exception from its nuclear export law. U.S. officials emphasized that the decision was only for India.

In a Nov. 29 interview, a Department of State official said the United States does not see the new initiative as a “repeat” of the 2008 decision. Rather than creating a unique exception for India, the initiative signals an effort to begin discussions on “evolving” the membership criteria of the NSG and other export control regimes so that non-NPT countries can become eligible, she said.

Israel and Pakistan also have never been NPT parties and maintain unsafeguarded nuclear programs.

According to the joint statement, the United States “intends to support” Indian membership in those regimes “in a phased manner, and to consult with regime members to encourage the evolution of regime membership criteria, consistent with maintaining the core principles of these regimes, as the Government of India takes steps towards the full adoption of the regimes’ export control requirements to reflect its prospective membership, with both processes moving forward together.”

That would mean that the NSG would have to agree on the revised membership criteria and then determine whether India met those criteria, the State Department official said.

Before the easing of the NSG export restrictions in 2008, India stated its unilateral adherence to the group’s guidelines. The official declined to comment on whether India’s export controls currently meet NSG guidelines, but said that, as an NSG adherent, India is expected to “keep current” with the guidelines as they change.

Critics have said that because India already has made a commitment to meet the NSG’s export standards, which are nonbinding, the new initiative requires nothing from New Delhi in return for the benefits of NSG membership, chiefly, recognition as a responsible nuclear state and the ability to have a say in the group’s decisions.

The official countered that there is a benefit to the nonproliferation regime in having India participate in the discussion and the exchanges of information that take place within the NSG. Membership may give India “more of a stake” in the regime, she said.

One Initiative at a Time

Two officials from NSG member countries said the group is not planning to take up the question of Indian membership until the NSG works out a revision of guidelines on exports relating to uranium enrichment and spent fuel reprocessing. The NSG has been wrestling with that issue since 2004.

In a Nov. 22 interview, a U.S. official said that the U.S. priority in the NSG is “100 percent” on revamping the guidelines on sensitive nuclear exports. The United States is not “contemplating discussion at this time” on Indian membership, he said.

The U.S. government is hoping the NSG will reach consensus on the guidelines revision this year, he said.

The NSG’s Consultative Group met in Vienna Nov. 10-11, but “we are where we were before the meeting” on guidelines for sensitive exports, the official said.

A European diplomat said in a Nov. 19 e-mail to Arms Control Today that “the Chair [New Zealand] is working away on this with the countries most concerned, but it appears likely at present that this issue will have to come back to Plenary.” The change in the guidelines would have to take place at a plenary meeting, which the NSG typically holds once a year. The next plenary is scheduled for June in the Dutch town of Noordwijk. Changing the guidelines before then would require a special plenary to be convened.

In late 2008, the NSG produced a “clean text” and appeared to be close to reaching agreement (see ACT, December 2008), but efforts have stalled since then. In recent months, several observers have cited Turkey as the principal obstacle.

The U.S. official said there have been changes made in the text “to accommodate a number of concerns, not just Turkey[’s].”

In October, Gary Samore, the White House arms control coordinator, indicated that the United States would consider dropping the six-year-old effort to revise the guidelines if it did not bear fruit soon. (See ACT, November 2010.) But in the interview, the U.S. official said Samore’s comments were not inconsistent with the ongoing U.S. effort. Samore’s point was that “our patience isn’t going to last forever,” he said.

Cynical Interpretation

Some observers, noting the hurdles to Indian membership and the time frame that would be required, have questioned whether the United States actually intends to pursue the effort vigorously. They suggested that the Obama administration might have made the announcement to give a near-term boost to U.S.-Indian relations.

One House staffer, who called the initiative “terrible” for nonproliferation, said Nov. 16 that he is “hoping it was pure cynicism,” that is, that the administration was promising something that it “know[s] would never happen.”

The State Department official said, “People will believe what they want to believe,” but emphasized, “I certainly see this as doable.”


In spite of a U.S. pledge of support for Indian membership in the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), New Delhi is not likely to enter the group anytime soon, sources said last month.

Obama Easing Export Controls on India

Eric Auner

The United States is pursuing several initiatives to loosen export controls and multilateral technology restrictions on India, U.S. officials announced during President Barack Obama’s Nov. 6-9 trip to India.

At a Nov. 8 joint press conference with Obama in New Delhi, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh welcomed the shift in U.S. policy toward fewer restrictions on India, calling it a “manifestation of the growing trust and confidence” between the two countries. The United States and India have agreed to cooperate further in “space, civil nuclear, defense, and other high-end sectors,” he said.

The Obama administration also announced its support for a permanent Indian seat on the UN Security Council, a longtime foreign policy goal for India.

Greater Indian participation in multilateral export control regimes was a priority for both sides during the trip. The United States “intends to support India’s full membership” in four international regimes that control the spread of sensitive technology, according to a White House document summarizing the U.S.-Indian partnership on export controls and nonproliferation.

Most significant among these is the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), which sets rules on the transfer of technologies that potentially could be used for a nuclear weapons program. In 2008, India obtained a waiver from the NSG that allowed it to conduct nuclear commerce with NSG members. India has not signed the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), and it does not place all of its nuclear facilities under International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards, requirements under the NSG’s nonbinding guidelines for nuclear commerce with the group’s members. (See ACT, October 2008.)

The other export control groups are the Missile Technology Control Regime, which sets export guidelines intended to restrict missile proliferation; the Australia Group, which aims to restrict the spread of chemical and biological weapons; and the Wassenaar Arrangement, which seeks to control the export of conventional weapons and dual-use goods. The groups have a range of criteria for membership. For example, the “Basic Documents” of the Wassenaar Arrangement require, among other things, that a state “adhere” to the NPT.

India’s nuclear-armed neighbor China is not a member of any of these groups except the NSG. Pakistan, India’s other nuclear-armed neighbor, is not a member of any.

The United States does not by itself have the authority to give India membership in any of these groups. All four make decisions about new members by consensus, and India and its supporters will have to convince current members that Indian laws and practices are consistent with each group’s guidelines.

Membership in these bodies would allow India to play a role in setting the trade rules for various sensitive technologies. Given that these bodies operate by consensus, India also would have the ability to block rule changes or the admission of additional members.

“Entity List” Trimmed

During the Nov. 8 joint press conference, Obama also announced his administration’s intention to remove a number of Indian organizations from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Entity List. U.S. companies must obtain a special license to trade certain goods with organizations on the entity list. The final decision to remove an organization is made by the End-User Review Committee, which is composed of representatives from several government agencies.

Several organizations involved with India’s nuclear, space, and missile programs were placed on the entity list following India’s 1998 nuclear tests. Most have been removed from the list already, but several organizations remain.

The entities newly slated for removal are four subsidiaries of the Indian Space Research Organization, which is responsible for India’s civilian space program, including satellite launches; Bharat Dynamics Ltd., which is involved in the development and manufacture of India’s missile systems, including the Agni series of ballistic missiles; and four subsidiaries of the Defence Research and Development Organization, which is the main government agency responsible for developing weapons systems such as the Arjun main battle tank and is involved with India’s general military acquisitions process.

After the removal of these organizations from the entity list, trade with them in sensitive technologies will continue to be subject to normal U.S. export licensing procedures. Furthermore, three Indian Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) entities remain on the list, and there has been no announcement about removing them. These include the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, one of India’s most important facilities for nuclear research and development. The DAE is primarily responsible for India’s nuclear energy industry and nuclear weapons arsenal.

In a Nov. 8 address to both houses of the Indian parliament, Obama said these changes would ensure that Indian companies seeking American technology “are treated the same as our very closest allies and partners.”

Increased Defense Cooperation

Obama and Singh released a joint Nov. 8 statement that discussed the “transformation” in bilateral defense cooperation and indicated “resolve” to promote “trade and cooperation in defense equipment and technology.” The Obama administration has promoted defense sales to India as a way to foster closer diplomatic ties between the two countries and create jobs in the United States.

An October Congressional Research Service (CRS) report on the U.S.-Indian relationship said India is “potentially spending $100 billion over the next decade” on its military. U.S. access to the Indian defense market has been complicated by U.S. export controls and an Indian requirement that a certain percentage of each defense purchase be physically manufactured in India.

India does want a closer defense relationship with the United States, but it has to make commercial sense for U.S. companies,” Sunil Dasgupta, co-author of a recent book on Indian military modernization, said in a Nov. 16 interview. In addition, Indian armed forces will need assurances that U.S. companies will be “reliable suppliers,” he said.

Several commercial deals between U.S. companies and the Indian government were discussed on the margins of Obama’s visit, according to a White House document explaining several recent U.S. sales to India in the context of efforts to increase U.S. exports. Boeing and the Indian air force “have reached preliminary agreement” on the sale of 10 C-17 Globemaster III military transport aircraft, a transaction valued at approximately $4.1 billion, the document said. If “training, equipment, spare parts, and other support” are included, the deal may be worth as much as $5.8 billion, according to the CRS report.

General Electric has been selected to supply 107 light combat aircraft engines, a sale valued at approximately $822 million, according to the White House document.

Lockheed Martin and Boeing are among the international arms manufacturers competing to sell 126 multirole aircraft to India worth approximately $11 billion, according to the CRS report. If either of the two U.S. companies won the competition, it would mark the first time India had chosen a U.S. firm to supply combat aircraft.

In a Nov. 5 speech in Washington, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said U.S.-Indian defense cooperation should go further. “[T]here is no reason why we cannot work to facilitate India’s development of advanced defense capabilities,” including nuclear submarines and missile defense architecture, he said.


The United States is pursuing several initiatives to loosen export controls and multilateral technology restrictions on India, U.S. officials announced during President Barack Obama’s Nov. 6-9 trip to India.

At a Nov. 8 joint press conference with Obama in New Delhi, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh welcomed the shift in U.S. policy toward fewer restrictions on India, calling it a “manifestation of the growing trust and confidence” between the two countries. The United States and India have agreed to cooperate further in “space, civil nuclear, defense, and other high-end sectors,” he said.


N. Korea Reveals Uranium-Enrichment Plant

Peter Crail

North Korea unveiled a large uranium-enrichment pilot plant to a visiting team of former U.S. officials and academics Nov. 12, complicating efforts to denuclearize the Korean peninsula and potentially providing the country with another path to nuclear weapons.

During a Nov. 23 briefing, former Los Alamos National Laboratory Director Siegfried Hecker said that North Korean officials had showed him a facility containing about 2,000 gas centrifuges to enrich uranium. North Korean technicians claimed that the centrifuges were operating and producing low-enriched uranium (LEU) for a light-water reactor (LWR) Pyongyang revealed it was constructing earlier in the month, Hecker said.

Uranium enrichment can be used to produce LEU to power nuclear reactors but also to produce highly enriched uranium, which can be used for nuclear weapons.

North Korea has been suspected for many years of pursuing an enrichment capability, but the scale and sophistication of those efforts has been in question. (See ACT, April 2007.) Hecker said that “it was just stunning” to see “hundreds and hundreds” of centrifuges at the plant rather than the “couple of dozen” he was expecting. Pyongyang first publicly admitted to an enrichment program in June of last year, stating in September 2009 that the “experimental phase” of those efforts had been completed.

The decision to show Hecker the facility appears to have been made at the urging of former U.S. special envoy to North Korea Jack Pritchard, who visited the country in early November.

During a Nov. 23 briefing with Hecker at the Korea Economic Institute, Pritchard, who heads the institute, said that he was told about the existence of the enrichment plant during a visit to the Yongbyon complex. Upon Pritchard’s return to Pyongyang, North Korean Foreign Ministry officials expressed surprise that he was told about the facility, he said at the briefing. Pritchard said he told Pyongyang that because the international community would be skeptical of North Korea’s claims that it was pursuing enrichment for nonmilitary purposes, international inspectors, or at least Hecker, should be shown the new plant.

North Korea has invited Hecker to visit its nuclear facilities on several other occasions to provide confirmation of certain nuclear activities.

Hecker estimated that the facility is capable of producing two metric tons of LEU each year. That amount would be appropriate for fueling a reactor of the size North Korea intends to construct or for producing up to 40 kilograms of HEU, which is enough for one to two nuclear weapons.

Although Hecker indicated that he could not confirm that the centrifuges were in operation, he said the North Korean claim that they were operational was “not inconsistent” with what he saw. He also described the facility control room where he was taken as “astonishingly modern,” particularly compared to the other nuclear facilities located at the Yongbyon complex, which used decades-old instrumentation.

The centrifuges are located in a facility that formerly housed the metal fuel rod fabrication facility that North Korea used to fashion fuel for its five-megawatt reactor located at the same complex. When it was in operation, that reactor produced plutonium for Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program. As part of a 2007 arrangement in which Pyongyang agreed to disable key facilities involved in that program, North Korea shut down its reactor and removed critical equipment from the fuel fabrication plant.

U.S. officials were present to confirm that those facilities remained disabled until April 2009, when North Korea backed out of multilateral talks in response to a UN Security Council rebuke of its rocket launch earlier that month and kicked out inspectors.

Hecker said North Korean technicians told him that they had begun constructing the enrichment plant in the former fuel-fabrication facility that same month.

Hecker, along with former U.S. officials familiar with North Korea’s nuclear program, has expressed surprise at the speed with which Pyongyang was able to install and possibly operate a facility of the scale revealed last month. During the Nov. 23 briefing, Hecker said that the centrifuges originally must have been installed in a plant in another location and moved to Yongbyon. He noted that North Korea could possibly have other enrichment facilities, adding that they would be difficult to detect.

The international community has expressed similar concerns over the difficulty of detecting covert enrichment plants in Iran, which was found to be constructing such a plant in secret last year. (See ACT, October 2009.) Tehran also uses gas centrifuge technology to enrich uranium, claiming that it is doing so to produce LEU for nuclear fuel.

The North Korean and Iranian gas centrifuge programs both received crucial assistance from the nuclear smuggling network run by Pakistani nuclear official Abdul Qadeer Khan, including centrifuge designs, components, and complete centrifuges.

In his 2006 memoir, former Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf said Khan provided North Korea with centrifuges and centrifuge components of the P-1 and the more advanced P-2 variety in 2000.

The centrifuges at the Yongbyon enrichment facility are believed to be based on the P-2 model whereas Iran’s centrifuge program has primarily relied on the P-1 machine. Former International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Deputy Director-General for Safeguards Olli Heinonen said Nov. 22 that Iran does not appear to have progressed in its development of its own P-2 centrifuge variant.

The P-2 centrifuge can enrich uranium more than twice as fast as the P-1.

Hecker said he was concerned that North Korea was cooperating with Iran on centrifuge development, but he said that the facility he was shown indicates that North Korea’s enrichment program is more advanced than Iran’s. “I would not go to Iran if I were North Korea,” he said adding, “but it might in the future be the other way around.”

Centrifuge capabilities are generally measured in separative work units (SWU), or the effort needed to separate isotopes in the enrichment process. Iran’s industrial-scale Natanz facility is estimated to average less than 4,000 SWU per year while, according to Hecker, North Korea claims that the Yongbyon enrichment plant has an annual capacity of 8,000 SWU.

Hecker said North Korean technicians told him that their centrifuges were based on designs used by the European enrichment consortium Urenco, from which Khan stole the centrifuge designs during the 1970s, and Japan’s Rokkasho-mura enrichment plant.

The relation to the Rokkasho-mura plant is uncertain.

According to Hecker, North Korea admitted for the first time that it was capable of producing uranium hexafluoride (UF6), the feedstock for uranium enrichment. Although Pyongyang has denied possessing a UF6 plant in the past, suspicions mounted when international inspectors discovered UF6 in Libya that the United States believes originated in North Korea.

Libya also was pursuing an enrichment program with assistance from Khan’s network.

North Korea was known to have the capability to produce uranium tetrafluoride (UF4), the precursor for UF6, during the 1990s, but that facility was abandoned some time prior to 2002 due to corrosion and equipment failure.

Hecker said North Korean officials told him that they developed a less corrosive process that was used for UF4 production, which they used to produce UF6 as well.

Despite concerns that North Korea could have additional enrichment plants in other locations for military purposes, there is some question as to whether Pyongyang has sufficient materials to build such facilities.

“They are limited by the materials and the equipment,” Hecker said, noting that the requirements for construction of a centrifuge enrichment plant include high-strength steel and aluminum, ring magnets, bearings, and vacuum valves. Such materials and equipment fall under international controls over nuclear-related technology.

Going Alone on an LWR

Pyongyang claims that the enrichment facility viewed by Hecker is part of a fuel production process for an LWR it began constructing at the end of July. LWRs require enriched-uranium fuel.

Hecker said that the LWR is relatively small, providing about 25 to 30 megawatts of power. He said North Korean officials told him the reactor will provide power for local communities and that, given their lack of expertise in LWR technology, they would begin with a small-scale reactor.

North Korea declared last year that it would “actively consider” building such a reactor in response to the April 2009 Security Council condemnation of its rocket launch, among other steps to bolster its nuclear activities. Although North Korea is not believed to possess the expertise to construct a full-scale LWR, Hecker said the country’s plan to construct a 25- to 30-megawatt reactor “is credible.”

The LWR revelation comes about a month after satellite imagery revealed new construction at the Yongbyon site where the cooling tower for North Korea’s five-megawatt heavy-water reactor once stood. (See ACT, November 2010.) The cooling tower was demolished in 2008 as part of the multilateral denuclearization agreement and the site now is being used for the LWR.

Although two key facilities associated with North Korea’s now-dormant plutonium-production program are being used for North Korea’s enrichment plant and its LWR, Pyongyang could still reinstate plutonium production if it chose to do so.

Hecker said he did not think the new facilities would not significantly delay the reconstruction of the cooling tower, which would take about six months, and North Korea still has fuel rods for its existing reactor. Many of those fuel rods, however, would need to be machined before being loaded into the reactor, a process also estimated to take about six months.

According to Hecker, North Korea officials said that the five-megawatt reactor remains under repair and is “on standby.”

North Korea cannot produce any additional plutonium for weapons until it machines new fuel rods and constructs a new cooling system for the reactor.

Hecker suggested that North Korea’s fastest route to increasing its nuclear weapons capabilities would be for it to restore its plutonium-production facilities. “They’ve tested twice, they know how to build a plutonium bomb, that’s the way they would go,” he said.

He noted that because more-advanced weapons programs generally use plutonium, states that have developed nuclear weapons have switched from HEU-based to plutonium-based weapons, rather than the other way around.

Hecker and Pritchard said North Korean officials told them during their visits that the construction of the LWR, along with a number of major economic development activities, is slated for completion in 2012, when the country celebrates the 100th anniversary of the birth of its founder, Kim Il Sung. They both expressed doubt about that time frame.

The construction of an LWR has been a critical issue in negotiations over North Korea’s nuclear weapons efforts.

As part of a 1994 U.S.-North Korean denuclearization agreement, called the Agreed Framework, Washington agreed to facilitate the construction of two 1,000-megawatt LWRs in North Korea in return for a North Korean pledge to freeze and dismantle the facilities associated with its plutonium-based nuclear weapons program.

An international consortium poured concrete for the first reactor in 2002, but the project was suspended a year later following a breakdown of the Agreed Framework at the end of that year. The reactors, originally due to be completed in 2003, were never constructed. Pyongyang often complained about delays in the construction of the reactors.

The LWR issue was raised again in a 2005 agreement involving China, Japan, North Korea, Russia, South Korea, and the United States, in which the six parties “agreed to discuss, at an appropriate time, the subject of the provision” of an LWR to North Korea.

Hecker said North Korean officials told him that the possession of an LWR is important for energy production and for symbolic reasons and that Pyongyang maintains that it has a right to pursue nuclear energy.

North Korea still claims it is willing to honor the 2005 denuclearization agreement, a key U.S. condition to restart negotiations. (See ACT, October 2010.) It is unclear how the new enrichment facility would be addressed in any renewed talks.

The September 2005 joint statement commits North Korea to abandoning all nuclear weapons “and existing nuclear programs.” The two Koreas also pledged in that statement to abide by a 1992 joint declaration on denuclearization, which prohibits either country from developing enrichment or reprocessing technologies.

A decision to maintain an enrichment facility, even for peaceful purposes, would appear to be inconsistent with the 1992 declaration.

Pritchard said that, during his visit, North Korean officials talked about “a little bizarre reordering of priorities” with respect to the 2005 agreement, highlighting the U.S. commitment to discuss a formal peace treaty, normalization, and compensation for North Korean commitments, rather than the denuclearization process.

UN Report Details Proliferation

In the midst of revelations regarding North Korean nuclear activities in defiance of UN sanctions, a 75-page UN panel report released Nov. 10 detailed Pyongyang’s efforts to circumvent international controls and import and export prohibited goods.

The report was drafted by a seven-member panel established by UN Security Council Resolution 1874, adopted in response to North Korea’s May 2009 nuclear test. Diplomatic sources said that the release of the report, which was completed in May, has been delayed for several months by China.

The report says that North Korea “has established a highly sophisticated international network for the acquisition, marketing and sale of arms and military equipment,” noting that such exports are a key source of foreign currency for Pyongyang, amounting to about $100 million each year.

It indicates that Pyongyang is involved in nuclear- and ballistic missile-related activities in certain countries, including Iran, Myanmar (Burma), and Syria, and calls on states to prevent such transfers.

The panel concludes, however, that UN sanctions have “significantly constrained” Pyongyang’s illicit arms sales. To get around international sanctions, North Korea employs a “broad range of techniques to mask its financial transactions, including the use of overseas entities, shell companies, informal transfer mechanisms, cash couriers and barter arrangements.”

The report notes that North Korea relies on air cargo to transport high-value and sensitive arms exports. Resolution 1874 includes less-detailed enforcement measures for air cargo than for suspicious overseas freight.


North Korea unveiled a large uranium-enrichment pilot plant to a visiting team of former U.S. officials and academics Nov. 12, complicating efforts to denuclearize the Korean peninsula and potentially providing the country with another path to nuclear weapons.

UK, France Sign Nuclear Collaboration Treaty

Robert Golan-Vilella

The United Kingdom and France have agreed to cooperate in maintaining their nuclear weapons stockpiles, British Prime Minister David Cameron and French President Nicolas Sarkozy said last month in a joint press conference.

The Nov. 2 announcement came at the conclusion of a one-day bilateral summit as Cameron and Sarkozy signed two treaties committing their countries to a deeper military partnership. One pact addresses a broad range of defense and security issues. The other states that the two parties will cooperate in nuclear weapons safety and security, stockpile certification, and “counter nuclear or radiological terrorism.”

Under the terms of the latter treaty, the United Kingdom and France will build two joint nuclear research facilities. At one, in Valduc, France, the two countries will perform hydrodynamic experiments on their nuclear warheads. The facility will “use radiography to measure the performance of materials at extremes of temperature and pressure,” British Minister of Defence Liam Fox told the House of Commons Nov. 2. “This enables us to model the performance and safety of the nuclear weapons in our stockpile without undertaking nuclear explosive tests,” he said.

The Valduc site “shall comprise areas for solely national and joint use,” the nuclear cooperation treaty states. Each nation “shall conduct all the trials needed to support its national programmes…without scrutiny from” the other. In addition, each country’s national area is to be staffed by its own personnel, and access to that area “shall be subject to prior approval” by its own national authorities.

The second facility, which will be built at the Atomic Weapons Establishment in Aldermaston, England, will pursue “development work to underpin the technologies used in the [Valduc] facility throughout its operational life,” according to the treaty. No fissile material is to be used in the experiments performed at this location, the treaty says.

In addition to nuclear stockpile management, the two powers agreed to “develop jointly some of the equipment and technologies for the next generation of nuclear submarines,” a joint declaration from the summit said. In non-nuclear areas, the two countries pledged to develop a joint expeditionary force, allow each country’s aircraft to operate off the other’s aircraft carriers, create a framework for addressing cybersecurity issues, and work together to build a new generation of unmanned aerial vehicles, according to the summit declaration.

In his press conference with Sarkozy, Cameron emphasized Paris and London’s common interests as the driving force behind the treaties. He said that the two countries “are natural partners; the third- and the fourth-largest defense spenders in the world, both with nuclear responsibilities and both with permanent seats on the United Nations Security Council.” Sarkozy concurred, stating that “we have common commitments and we will shoulder them together.”

Cameron also highlighted the economic incentives for increased collaboration, saying the policy shift “is about practical, hard-headed cooperation between sovereign countries. It is about sharing development and equipment costs, eliminating unnecessary duplication, coordinating logistics, and aligning our research programs.”

Indeed, the move comes just as both nations are facing severe financial pressures at home. Two weeks prior to concluding the agreements with France, the British government unveiled its Strategic Defence and Security Review, in which it announced that it would cut defense spending by 8 percent in real terms over the next four years. (See ACT, November 2010.) Commentators in the international media immediately identified the need to cut costs as the principal motivating force for the treaties, dubbing the new partnership “the entente frugale.” The term is a play on the Entente Cordiale, an early 20th century agreement between Paris and London that resolved several long-standing disputes and reduced tensions between the powers.

When asked how much money would be saved as a result of the treaties, a spokesman for Cameron said that the British government did not currently have an estimate and that many of the details would be worked out over the next year, according to a press briefing summary from Cameron’s office.

The prescribed duration of the nuclear treaty is the life cycle of the Valduc and Aldermaston facilities, which “shall be 50 years or until such other time as mutually agreed by the Parties,” the agreement says. The defense and security treaty is to remain in force indefinitely.


NATO Approves Expanded Missile Defense

Robert Golan-Vilella

The leaders of NATO’s 28 countries last month endorsed a U.S. plan to provide missile defense coverage over all European member states. At its Nov. 19-20 summit in Lisbon, the alliance also formally invited Russia to participate in the planned system, and Moscow and NATO agreed to take the first steps toward missile defense cooperation. It is unclear how far this cooperation will ultimately go.

The main result of the Lisbon meeting was the adoption of a new Strategic Concept, the alliance’s first since 1999. In that document, which is intended to guide NATO’s strategy for the next decade, the allies declared that they would adopt missile defense as a central mission, aiming to “develop the capability to defend our populations and territories against ballistic missile attack as a core element of our collective defence.”

The decision, which was expected, means that NATO will pursue a significant expansion of its existing missile defense capabilities. Currently, the alliance’s Active Layered Theater Ballistic Missile Defense (ALTBMD) program is designed only to protect deployed NATO soldiers from missiles with ranges under 1,000 kilometers. (See ACT, November 2010.) The ALTBMD program consists of a NATO command, control, and communications system into which nations can “plug” their own sensors and shooters, U.S. Ambassador to NATO Ivo Daalder explained Nov. 22 at the Brookings Institution in Washington.

Under the agreement, the United States’ own missile defense plan for Europe, the Phased Adaptive Approach, will become the predominant part of the new NATO missile defense architecture. In September 2009, President Barack Obama announced that he would not go ahead with the Bush administration’s plans to station missile defense facilities in Poland and the Czech Republic. Instead, the United States is deploying sensors and interceptors in phases as the anticipated missile threat from Iran evolves and as new technologies become available. (See ACT, October 2009.) The first phase of the new approach is scheduled to become operational in 2011.

A declaration by heads of state and government at the Lisbon summit highlighted the phased approach as “a valuable national contribution to the NATO missile defense architecture.” NATO member states other than the United States are not required to contribute new assets to the expanded system.

As a next step, the leaders directed the North Atlantic Council, NATO’s principal decision-making body, “to develop missile defense consultation, command and control arrangements by the time of the March 2011 meeting of our Defence Ministers,” the declaration said. In addition, the council is supposed “to draft an action plan addressing steps to implement the missile defence capability” by June 2011.

Reaching Out to Russia

NATO countries invited Russia to play a role in the planned missile defense arrangement, stating in the Strategic Concept that they would “actively seek cooperation on missile defence with Russia.” Russia, which has not formally committed to participating in NATO missile defense, agreed to take part in preliminary discussions to clarify exactly what Moscow’s role in the process would be. That decision was made at a Nov. 20 NATO-Russia Council meeting, which took place alongside the larger summit.

In a joint statement, the NATO leaders and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev announced that they had “agreed on a joint ballistic missile threat assessment.” They agreed to resume joint theater missile defense exercises, which had been suspended since 2008 in the aftermath of Russia’s war with Georgia. In addition, they directed the council “to develop a comprehensive Joint Analysis of the future framework for missile defence cooperation.” Some of the main questions that this analysis will consider are what capabilities each side can provide, how they might link together effectively, and how issues such as cost-sharing will be addressed, Daalder said at the Brookings event. According to the joint statement, the progress of the joint analysis will be assessed in June 2011 at a meeting of council defense ministers.

In Lisbon, the decision to cooperate with Russia on missile defense was widely portrayed as a step toward a deeper partnership between Russia and the West. According to the Strategic Concept, “NATO poses no threat to Russia. On the contrary: we want to see a true strategic partnership between NATO and Russia.” In a press conference after the summit, Obama said, “We see Russia as a partner, not an adversary.” Medvedev described the summit as “historic” in a press conference following the council meeting.

Nevertheless, questions remain about how far missile defense cooperation between NATO and Russia actually will go. In his press conference, Medvedev said that “we still need to get a full picture of just what this system will entail. The European countries themselves need to work out just what their place will be in this system and how it will all look in the end.” Medvedev laid out a series of conditions under which Russia would take part in a European missile defense system. Chief among them was equal participation. “Either we are fully involved, exchanging information and taking responsibility for particular areas, or we do not take part at all,” he said.

No Official Target

One of the most remarked-on features of the planned missile defense system is that it is not officially targeted against any specific country or group of countries. The Lisbon summit declaration simply refers to “the increasing threats posed by the proliferation of ballistic missiles” as the rationale for the new plan.

This absence was perceived by many as a concession to Turkey. In the months leading up to the summit, Turkish officials insisted that countries such as Iran and Syria not be cited as “threats.” Turkey’s acceptance of the new system was critical for two reasons: NATO adopts all of its decisions by consensus, and Turkey is the United States’ first choice to host a mobile X-band radar as part of the phased approach. (See ACT, November 2010.)

Although none of the summit documents mentioned particular countries as threats, it was clear that Iran was the principal concern for many of the leaders gathered in Lisbon. French President Nicolas Sarkozy told an Associated Press reporter on the sidelines of the summit that “France calls a cat a cat: the threat of the missiles today is Iran.”


The leaders of NATO’s 28 countries last month endorsed a U.S. plan to provide missile defense coverage over all European member states. At its Nov. 19-20 summit in Lisbon, the alliance also formally invited Russia to participate in the planned system, and Moscow and NATO agreed to take the first steps toward missile defense cooperation. It is unclear how far this cooperation will ultimately go.


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