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"No one can solve this problem alone, but together we can change things for the better." 

– Setsuko Thurlow
Hiroshima Survivor
June 6, 2016
November 2012
Edition Date: 
Monday, November 5, 2012
Cover Image: 

Arab States Look to WMD Meeting in 2012

Kelsey Davenport and Daria Medvedeva

The Arab League expects all countries in the Middle East to attend a December 2012 conference on creating a zone free of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in that region and demonstrate a commitment of “political will” despite current destabilizing developments in the region, the group said in an Oct. 8 statement at the UN General Assembly First Committee.

The statement, delivered by Egyptian Permanent Representative to the United Nations Mootaz Ahmadein Khalil on behalf of the 21 Arab League member countries, said that any delay will “impede progress in efforts to prevent nuclear proliferation” and could cause members of the Arab League to “review their policies” in this area.

But an Egyptian Foreign Ministry official told Arms Control Today on Oct. 4 that “domestic concerns and regional unrest” are diverting Egypt’s attention away from the planned December conference and that political will within the region to establish the zone is weaker now than in 2010.

Diplomats from countries outside the Middle East, such as the United States, whose support is considered necessary for negotiations on the zone to move forward, also have expressed concern that the regional upheaval caused by the Arab Spring could disrupt or delay the 2012 conference. (See ACT, June 2012.)

During the 2010 Nuclear Nonproliferation (NPT) Review Conference, member states committed themselves to holding a conference on the WMD-free zone in 2012 and reaffirmed their commitment to “full implementation” of a 1995 resolution calling for the establishment of the zone. (See ACT, June 2010.) Finland was designated as the host of the conference in October 2011, when Finnish Undersecretary of State Jaakko Laajava was named as facilitator. (See ACT, November 2011.)

The Arab League statement called for international support that would enable the meeting “to result in a practical outcome coupled with clear implementation mechanisms” set to “a specific timetable” for establishing the zone.

Laajava said in May that progress has been made in the organization for the conference, but further efforts were needed, particularly from conference conveners Russia, the United Kingdom, the United States, and the UN secretary-general.

In an Oct. 10 statement at the First Committee, Mikhail Ulyanov, director of the Department for Security Affairs and Disarmament in the Russian Foreign Ministry, said that the co-conveners already had completed much of the work for the conference. He said that ensuring attendance is a “vital task” and urged countries in the region to confirm their participation.

An October 1990 UN General Assembly resolution on the establishment of the zone proposed that it include the Arab League, which currently has 22 members although Syria’s membership has been suspended; Iran; and Israel. Diplomats and experts maintain that Iranian and Israeli participation in the conference will be key to its success, but neither country has confirmed that it will participate.

Israeli Reservations

Israeli Ambassador to the UN Ron Prosor did not make reference to attending the December meeting during his Oct. 16 remarks to the First Committee, but he said that Israel does support the “annual endorsement” of the committee’s yearly resolution on establishing a Middle Eastern WMD-free zone in spite of his country’s “substantive reservations regarding certain elements.” He did not expand on those reservations, but in past statements, Israel has said that negotiations can move forward on the zone only when there is peace within the region and Israel’s national security concerns are considered.

In a statement to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) General Conference on Sept. 19, Shaul Chorev, head of the Israel Atomic Energy Commission, said the establishment of the zone would require a “significant transformation of the regional trend” toward volatility and that any initiative to promote such a zone in “complete disregard” of the current regional realities, such as violent responses to uprisings and noncompliance with nonproliferation agreements, is “futile.” Chorev also highlighted Iran’s and Syria’s lack of cooperation with the IAEA as obstacles to the establishment of a WMD-free zone.

Emily Landau, director of the Arms Control and Regional Security program at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv, told Arms Control Today in an Oct. 16 e-mail that Chorev’s statement should not be interpreted as a rejection of Israel’s attendance at the December conference, but rather a message that the “realities of the Middle East are very far from being conducive” to the establishment of a WMD-free zone.

Israel will not agree to address these issues in a forum that “singles it out for condemnation” or “promotes a hostile atmosphere,” she said. Keeping the conference within the context of the NPT, to which Israel is not party, also is an obstacle because the proposal for the zone covers not only nuclear issues, but all weapons of mass destruction and delivery vehicles, she said.

Landau went on to say that identifying a “common interest” shared by all parties is a major challenge but that measures that “enhance communication” and lower tensions, while difficult to articulate, could be mechanisms for crafting a common goal.

Israel has attended meetings convened to support the process of creating a Middle Eastern WMD-free zone. Prosor noted in the Oct. 15 statement that Israel participated in a July 2011 EU seminar on creating the zone and intends to participate in a second seminar scheduled for November.

Iran Urges Action

Iran also has yet to confirm whether it will attend the conference. In his Oct. 15 statement to the First Committee, Iranian Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN Eshagh Al Habib said that Tehran “strongly calls” for “immediate implementation” of the NPT resolution on establishment of a Middle Eastern WMD-free zone.

In an Oct. 15 e-mail to Arms Control Today, Alireza Nader, an analyst for RAND Corporation, said Tehran typically views its participation in meetings on this subject as “diplomatically beneficial” as it “highlights the issue of Israel’s nuclear arsenal” and eases pressures on Iran. Nader said, however, that Iranian participation should not be viewed as producing any “immediate and lasting solutions to the nuclear crisis,” as “nearly intractable issues” shape Tehran’s “quest” for a nuclear weapons capability.

Iranian officials did not respond to a request for comment.

The Arab League reaffirmed its commitment to holding a conference in December on the establishment of a Middle Eastern zone free of weapons of mass destruction and called on all countries in the region to participate.

U.S. Pushes Missile Defense Globally

Tom Z. Collina

The United States in recent months has taken steps to expand missile defense capabilities in Asia, the Middle East, and Europe, with the declared goal of countering developing missile programs in North Korea and Iran.

China and Russia, however, say this expansion could eventually undermine the viability of their strategic forces, leading Moscow to resist U.S. calls for bilateral arms reductions and motivating China and Russia to build new weapons to counter planned defenses.

As part of its effort to shift defense resources to Asia, the United States is expanding missile defense cooperation with Japan and South Korea. The Pentagon announced in August that it would field a second missile-tracking X-band radar in Japan; the Defense Department deployed a similar radar at Shariki, in northern Japan, in 2006.

Japan has purchased the U.S. Aegis missile defense system, as well as Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) IA interceptors, early-warning radars, and command and control systems. Japan and the United States are co-developing the SM-3 IIA missile, which would also be deployed in Europe.

South Korean Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin and U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta met in Washington on Oct. 24 and agreed to continue to cooperate on missile defense and to “enhance the interoperability” of their command and control systems.

This partnership reportedly would include joint research on a “Korea Air and Missile Defense” system, involving a new radar and Standard Missile interceptors for Aegis-equipped destroyers deployed near Korea. Earlier in October, the United States agreed to let Seoul develop missiles having a payload of 500 kilograms with a range of up to 800 kilometers, up from a limit of 300 kilometers (see p. 22). Seoul officials say that South Korea will cooperate with the United States on regional defenses but not longer-range systems that might upset China, South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency reported Oct. 26.

According to an Aug. 23 Wall Street Journal story, U.S. officials have been evaluating sites in Southeast Asia for a third X-band radar, possibly in the Philippines, to create an “arc” that would allow the United States and its regional allies “to more accurately track any ballistic missiles launched from North Korea, as well as from parts of China.”

The U.S. X-band radars, know as AN/TPY-2s, could be networked with mobile missile interceptors deployed on U.S. Aegis-equipped ships at sea and with land-based interceptors in the region, according to experts. Panetta has said that such systems in Asia are intended to protect against missile threats from North Korea, which conducted a failed test of a long-range ballistic missile in April.

Some experts, however, say that China is also part of U.S. thinking. “In terms of missile defense, the U.S. talks about North Korea, but China is part of the long term outlook,” Steven Hildreth, a missile defense specialist with the Congressional Research Service, said in an Oct. 22 e-mail to Arms Control Today.

The Chinese Ministry of National Defense responded to the August announcement of the plans for the radar in Japan by stating that countries should avoid situations “in which one country tries to let its own state security take priority over other countries’ national security.” Beijing objected to the first radar in Japan in 2006.

Beijing, which is secretive about its nuclear weapons program, reportedly is responding to U.S. moves by expanding its relatively small nuclear arsenal and working on new mobile missiles, such as the DF-41, and countermeasures to help its missiles evade U.S. defenses.

In Europe, the United States is spending billions of dollars to deploy an array of missile interceptor systems, such as SM-3 interceptors based on Aegis-equipped ships and at two land-based sites in Poland and Romania, in four phases through about 2020. NATO announced at its May summit in Chicago that the first phase of the system, including one ship with SM-3 IA interceptors and an X-band radar in Turkey, has given NATO an “interim capability.” The SM-3 IA failed its most recent intercept test on Oct. 25.

Russian officials have said that the ongoing U.S. and NATO missile defense deployments in Europe are a threat to Moscow’s strategic deterrent. In response, Moscow is resisting further bilateral reductions in nuclear stockpiles beyond those called for in the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty and is planning to modernize its forces. The plans include developing by 2018 a new 10-warhead intercontinental ballistic missile optimized to penetrate missile defenses.

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin told NATO delegates in Moscow Oct. 18 that Russia’s response to NATO’s missile defense plan “is currently mostly virtual, political, and diplomatic in character, but under certain circumstances, we would be forced to deliver a technical response, which I don’t think you’ll like.”

In the Middle East, the United States is focused on selling its missile interceptor systems to Persian Gulf states. A number of countries in the region already deploy U.S.-supplied Patriot short-range interceptors and are considering buying longer-range systems under the U.S. Foreign Military Sales program. Last year, for example, the United Arab Emirates became the first country to buy the U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense intermediate-range interceptor system, for $3.5 billion.

As more Gulf states buy U.S. missile interceptor systems, the United States will work to promote interoperability and cooperation among those states, Frank A. Rose, deputy assistant secretary of state for arms control, verification, and compliance, said Sept. 10 at a missile defense symposium in Berlin. This aspect of the plan is similar to the one for Europe, where NATO is integrating the new, U.S.-supplied interceptor systems with existing NATO short-range interceptors and sensors.

In the future, as the United States deploys additional Navy ships with SM-3 interceptors, it could assign some of those ships to the Persian Gulf, Asia, or Europe. U.S. mobile systems “can be relocated to adapt to changing regional threats and provide surge defense capabilities where they are most needed,” Rose said.

As the United States expands missile defense capabilities in Asia, the Middle East, and Europe to counter developing missile programs in Iran and North Korea, China and Russia say this expansion could be a threat to their strategic forces.

U.S. Remains Above New START Limits

Tom Z. Collina

The latest data exchange under the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) indicates gradual progress by the United States in drawing down its nuclear arsenal and a substantial numerical gap between U.S. and Russian forces.

For deployed nuclear warheads and delivery vehicles, Russia remains below treaty limits. The United States continues to be well above the limits, leading to calls by some experts for the Defense Department to accelerate its reductions.

The State Department on Oct. 3 released the figures from the latest data exchange for nuclear weapons under New START. The United States and Russia are required by the treaty to exchange data in three categories of strategic forces every six months.

Since New START entered into force in February 2011, there have been four sets of data exchanges (fig. 1). As of Sept. 1, the United States had reduced the number of its deployed strategic warheads from 1,800 to 1,722, or 4 percent, and deployed delivery systems (long-range missiles and bombers) from 882 to 806, or 9 percent. Russia has reduced its inventory of strategic warheads from 1,537 to 1,499, or 2 percent, and deployed delivery systems from 521 to 491, or 6 percent. The numbers have fluctuated as both sides have moved systems in and out of maintenance, but the downward trend is clear.

Overall, Washington now deploys 223 (15 percent) more strategic warheads than Moscow does, and 315 (64 percent) more delivery systems. These gaps have narrowed only marginally from the first data exchange.

The treaty restricts the numbers of both sides’ deployed strategic warheads to 1,550, deployed delivery systems to 700, and deployed and nondeployed missile launchers and bombers to 800 each. Under the treaty, these limits do not have to be met until February 2018. Both countries maintain thousands of additional warheads for tactical missions and in storage.

Neither side’s strategic force levels have undergone dramatic changes since the first data exchange, and some experts are questioning the slow pace of U.S. reductions and the gap between U.S. and Russian forces. For example, a recently published book found that as Russia is on track to meet its New START limits well ahead of schedule, “Washington might consider accelerating implementation of its New START reductions as well.” Such early implementation might signal “Washington’s seriousness in reducing nuclear arms and help secure Russian agreement to a further round of negotiations,” said authors Steven Pifer and Michael E. O’Hanlon of the Brookings Institution.

Similarly, an Aug. 14 draft report from the U.S. secretary of state’s International Security Advisory Board found that the United States could accelerate its reductions under New START, allowing both sides to avoid “costly or destabilizing” programs to modernize strategic forces. The report said that U.S. reductions might encourage Russia to reconsider its plans, announced in September, to deploy a new “heavy” intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) by 2018. (See ACT, October 2012.)

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According to Pifer and O’Hanlon, reductions in strategic warheads would be easier to accelerate than those in delivery vehicles because they would require only that warheads be removed from deployed missiles and the missiles themselves would not have to be removed immediately.

In an Oct. 22 e-mail to Arms Control Today, a Defense Department spokeswoman noted that New START “does not mandate any schedules” for reductions other than that the central limits must be met by February 2018. The Obama administration, according to the spokeswoman, has consistently stated that it plans to make most reductions “toward the end of the seven-year implementation period” and, by doing so, “the United States will maintain the viability of each leg” of the nuclear triad of submarines, bombers, and ICBMs, “satisfy the strategic targeting and planning requirements set forth in classified [Defense Department] guidance for the employment of nuclear forces,” and comply with New START.

Some members of Congress, such as Rep. Michael Turner (R-Ohio), chairman of the House Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee, have said that it would be risky for the United States to bring its arsenal below New START levels at the same time that Russia and other countries “remain committed to nuclear weapons.”

According to a Defense Department report on Russian nuclear weapons, sent to Congress in May and declassified in October, the ability of U.S. weapons to survive a Russian attack is more important than the number of weapons on each side. The report said that Russian deployment of forces in numbers significantly above New START limits “would have little to no effect on the U.S. assured second-strike capabilities that underwrite our strategic deterrence posture.”

Moscow would not be able to achieve military advantage by “any plausible expansion of its strategic nuclear forces,” the report says, because sufficient U.S. forces would survive and be able to retaliate. This second-strike survivability comes primarily from Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines, “a number of which are at sea at any given time.”

The report, obtained by the Federation of American Scientists under the Freedom of Information Act, says that a nuclear first strike by Russia “will most likely not occur.”

The latest data exchange under the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty indicates gradual progress in U.S. reductions and a large numerical gap between U.S. and Russian forces.

Nunn-Lugar Program’s Future Uncertain

Tom Z. Collina

In a potential setback for U.S.-Russian relations, Moscow said in October that it would not sign an agreement drafted by the United States to extend the two countries’ 20-year partnership to dismantle and secure Russian weapons, materials, and delivery systems left over from the Cold War.

The United States, however, hopes to extend the so-called umbrella agreement, which provides the underlying legal framework for the Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) program. The program is commonly known by the names of the authors of the 1991 legislation that established the effort, Sens. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) and Sam Nunn (D-Ga.).

If the program, widely viewed as one of the most successful initiatives to control excess Russian weapons of mass destruction, is not renewed, “Russia’s unsecured weapons and materials [would] remain a temptation for terrorists of all varieties to buy or steal for use in future attacks,” The New York Times editorialized Oct. 17.

In comments that many interpreted as an indication the deal was dead, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said Oct. 10 that “[t]he American side knows that we do not want another [Nunn-Lugar] extension,” according to Russia’s Interfax news agency.

An Oct. 11 Times story characterized the prospects for a new deal as “bleak,” citing Russian President Vladimir Putin’s opposition to U.S. plans to deploy missile interceptors in eastern Europe and his decision to expel the U.S. Agency for International Development after two decades of work on Russian civil society and public health programs as examples of a growing anti-U.S. sentiment in Moscow.

Russian media said Moscow may not want to continue the agreement at all because it no longer needs Washington’s financial assistance to carry out the program and does not want to risk revealing sensitive information to the United States.

According to Western experts, Moscow’s sense of humiliation at being dependent on Washington to pay for securing its own weapons has always been an issue. “Russia did see the dangers after the Cold War, and many people rose to the challenge of doing something about it, but the pent-up sense of being dependent and wanting to end that seems to have finally come to the surface,” said David E. Hoffman, the author of a book on the Soviet nuclear and biological weapons programs and a former Washington Post bureau chief in Moscow, in an Oct. 18 e-mail to Arms Control Today.

Russia is apparently at least open to renegotiating the deal on terms that it views as more favorable. In a statement posted on its website Oct. 10, the Russian Foreign Ministry referred to the proposed extension agreement, saying, “Our American partners know that their proposal is at odds with our ideas about the forms and basis for building further cooperation in that area. To this end, we need a more modern legal framework.”

The Obama administration has said it believes that Moscow is open to a new deal, as has Lugar. The Indiana senator, who is leaving office, issued an Oct. 10 statement saying that when he was in Russia last August, officials did not indicate “they were intent on ending [the program], only amending it.” He said that Russian officials welcomed prospects for future work and that more retired Russian intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) await dismantlement.

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters Oct. 11 that the United States and Russia can do “a lot of future work…together” on threat reduction and that the Russians “have told us that they want revisions to the previous agreement.”

The original Nunn-Lugar umbrella agreement was extended in 1999 and again in 2006, and the current agreement will expire next June. The Obama administration began discussions with Russia on extending the agreement last July, according to the State Department.

In August, after his trip to Russia, Lugar told reporters that the new U.S. draft agreement is virtually identical to the current one. At the time, Lugar predicted Moscow might have problems with the draft as it does not address the liability issues that Russian officials have raised in the past. Under the original agreement, the U.S. government and its contractors are shielded from virtually all liability for accidents that could occur under the program’s work with nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons in Russia. In 2006 the deal was reportedly on the verge of collapse due to Moscow’s concerns over liability.

Other U.S.-Russian nuclear accords, such as the Nuclear Cities Initiative, have lapsed amid disputes over liability issues.

Even if Russia is open in principle to a revised agreement, it is unclear what specific changes Russia would want and if they would be acceptable to the United States.

The CTR program was started soon after the collapse of the Soviet Union, amid rising concerns that a cash-strapped Russia would not be able to control the vast Soviet weapons complex and that terrorists might buy or steal dangerous materials. The program allowed the United States to assist Russia in dismantling and destroying nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons and delivery systems for such weapons and in enhancing the security of key sites.

The bipartisan program’s accomplishments include removing nuclear weapons from Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine; deactivating more than 7,600 strategic nuclear warheads; destroying more than 900 ICBMs; and improving security at two dozen nuclear weapons storage sites.

Without a new U.S.-Russian agreement, the cooperative work would end. Moscow could continue the effort on its own, but experts worry that Russian leaders will not give the program high priority compared to other budget demands, such as producing new weapons and countering U.S. missile defense deployments in Europe.

“The decision to move forward on this agreement is one for the Russians to make, but the implications and consequences of that choice are global,” Kenneth Luongo, an Energy Department official in the Clinton administration and a member of the Arms Control Association Board of Directors, said in an Oct. 11 e-mail to Arms Control Today. “If the agreement is terminated, then it sends one of the worst signals to the international community about the importance of cooperation to secure loose nukes” and other weapons of mass destruction, he said.

Moscow said that it would not sign a U.S. draft agreement to extend the landmark Nunn-Lugar program to dismantle and protect former Soviet weapons of mass destruction. The United States hopes to extend the agreement, which expires next year.

South Korea Extends Missile Range

Kelsey Davenport

South Korea announced on Oct. 7 it had reached an agreement with the United States that will allow Seoul to extend the range of its ballistic missiles to 800 kilometers with a 500-kilogram payload, an increase the governments of both countries say is necessary to counter the growing threat posed by North Korea’s ballistic missiles.

Under a 2001 agreement with the United States, South Korea was limited to developing ballistic missiles with ranges of no more than 300 kilometers with a 500-kilogram payload. (See ACT, March 2001.) That agreement increased South Korea’s ballistic missile range from the 180-kilometer restriction that the two parties had negotiated in 1979.

Under the new guidelines, South Korea will be able to target any site in North Korea from anywhere in its own territory.

In an Oct. 7 press briefing, White House spokesman Jay Carney described the extension as a “prudent, proportional, and specific response” that is designed to improve South Korea’s “ability to defend” against North Korea’s ballistic missiles.

In an Oct. 12 interview, however, Leon Sigal, a Korea expert at the Social Science Research Council, said that the increased range is “exceedingly dangerous given the state of the military balance” on the Korean peninsula and that South Korea and the United States need to clarify whether the U.S. commander in South Korea will be consulted about any use of these weapons. If the decision on use rests solely with the South Koreans, there is a greater concern for escalation in the event of an incident, Sigal said.

North Korea is believed to have several varieties of operationally deployed ballistic missiles, including the Nodong, which has a range of approximately 1,300 kilometers. North Korea also is developing intercontinental ballistic missiles, although it has yet to conduct a successful test of a missile in that category. The last of these tests, which North Korea maintains was a satellite launch on an Unha-3 rocket, took place in April. (See ACT, May 2012.)

Michael Elleman, who was a missile expert for the UN team conducting weapons inspections in Iraq, said in an Oct. 15 e-mail that although Seoul’s “symbolic and psychological need to ‘mirror’” North Korea’s ballistic missile capabilities is understandable, it could be done using space launchers and that theater missile defenses “to defeat or blunt” North Korean threats would have “greater utility.” Space launchers use technology applicable to longer-range ballistic missile development.

If striking targets throughout North Korea is Seoul’s priority, developing cruise missiles is a better option because they are “more accurate, militarily effective and less vulnerable to pre-emption,” said Elleman, who now is with the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

A State Department official told Arms Control Today in an Oct. 18 e-mail that, under the new guidelines, South Korea also will be able to develop unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) with “greater range and payload capabilities” for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance. The official did not provide a figure, but South Korean media reported that the new agreement raises the UAV payload limit from 500 kilograms to 2,500 kilograms with an unlimited range. There was no change from the existing guidelines for cruise missiles, the official said.

Impact on the MTCR

With the 2001 ballistic missile restrictions in place, the United States then supported South Korea’s admission to the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR). The 34 member countries of the MTCR follow export control guidelines designed to prevent the proliferation of ballistic missiles with ranges greater than 300 kilometers carrying payloads larger than 500 kilograms.

Although the MTCR guidelines are voluntary and do not restrict countries from indigenously developing their own longer-range systems, it has been the U.S. practice to request that non-nuclear-weapon states joining after 1993 adhere to those guidelines for their own missile programs as well as their exports.

Elleman said that the damage done to the MTCR by the South Korean exception is “troublesome” but “should not be overestimated.”

In the Oct. 18 e-mail, the State Department official dismissed the possibility that the new South Korean missile guidelines would have an adverse effect on the MTCR, saying that the extension will have “no implications for other countries’ missile-related export behavior” and that it does “not impact the export control commitments” to which South Korea agreed when it joined the MTCR.­­­­

 

North Korean Response

The North Korean Foreign Ministry responded to Seoul’s announcement in an Oct. 10 statement saying that the United States “discarded its mask of deterring” missile proliferation by supporting South Korea’s increased missile ranges and killed efforts to restrain the development of long-range missile launches on the Korean peninsula.

The statement alluded to future North Korean launches of long-range missiles for “military purposes.” Sigal said the wording of the statement was significant because North Korea’s statements on its most recent test launches have not acknowledged a military purpose, claiming that they were for satellites.

South Korea and the United States reached an agreement allowing Seoul to extend the range of its ballistic missiles. Both countries say the increase is necessary to counter the threat posed by North Korea’s missile capabilities.

U.S. Officials Detail Cyber Policy

Timothy Farnsworth

U.S. officials in recent weeks have given stark descriptions of the threat to the United States and other countries from cyberattacks and have provided new details on the principles that they say will govern U.S. behavior in responding to the threat.

Separately, officials from more than 60 countries met in Budapest as part of a continuing effort to craft norms for state conduct in cyberspace.

In an Oct. 11 speech in New York City to Business Executives for National Security, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said the United States faces a real danger of cyberattacks from state and nonstate actors. An attack “could be as destructive as the terrorist attack on 9/11” and “could virtually paralyze the nation,” he said.

He stressed the need to develop offensive capabilities to defend the United States, its allies, and its interests. He said the United States would conduct cyberoperations only “in a manner that is consistent with the policy principles and legal frameworks” to which the Defense Department adheres “for other domains, including the law of armed conflict.”

Some countries do not share the U.S. position that existing international laws should apply to cyberspace. China and Russia have argued that new rules and laws need to be created. In September 2011, the two countries submitted to the UN General Assembly a proposal for a code of conduct in cyberspace. The proposed code calls for states to respect domestic laws and sovereignty and to settle disputes within the framework of the United Nations. (See ACT, November 2011.)

The Defense Department cyberspace strategy released in July 2011 says current international law applies to cyberspace as it does to air, land, sea, and space. Exactly how existing international law fits cyberspace has been the subject of many discussions. In Sept. 18 remarks at a U.S. Cyber Command interagency legal conference in Fort Meade, Maryland, State Department legal adviser Harold Koh clarified several aspects of the U.S. approach.

“[C]yberactivities that proximately result in death, injury, or significant destruction would likely be viewed as a use of force,” he said, and “if the physical consequences of a cyberattack work the kind of physical damage that dropping a bomb or firing a missile would, that cyberattack should equally be considered a use of force.” A U.S. response to cyberactivities would not have to take place in cyberspace as long as the response “meets the requirements of necessity and proportionality,” he said.

Meanwhile, in remarks at an Oct. 4-5 conference in Budapest on cyberspace, British Foreign Secretary William Hague called “for a new international consensus on rules of the road to guide future behavior in cyberspace and to combat the worst abuses of it.”

He made similar remarks at a conference held in London in November 2011, where government officials and members of nongovernmental organizations established a goal of developing norms for state behavior in cyberspace. (See ACT, December 2011.) No specific details were released in Budapest to indicate that the international community had moved closer to that goal.

The Budapest meeting was the first of at least two planned follow-ups to the London conference; the second is scheduled to take place in Seoul in 2013.

In an Oct. 11 interview with Arms Control Today, a U.S. State Department official said the value of the international conferences lies in broadening the topics of the conversation on cyberspace norms and bringing more participants into the conversation.

The United States views the conferences as complementing the ongoing diplomatic discussions over establishing international norms for state behavior in cyberspace in other venues, such as the UN group of governmental experts on information technology, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, and the regional forums of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, the official said.

At the Budapest conference, Hague said he did not support the idea of a treaty establishing rules for state conduct in cyberspace, arguing that such a treaty “would be cumbersome to agree, hard to enforce, and too narrow in its focus.”

Hungarian Foreign Minister János Martonyi, who chaired the conference, said in his closing remarks that “existing rules of international law and the traditional norms governing interstate relations apply to cyberspace,” a position seemingly similar to the one expressed by British and U.S. officials.

In an October e-mail exchange with Arms Control Today, Paul Meyer, a former Canadian ambassador to the Conference on Disarmament and a member of a panel at the Budapest conference, said, “One of the issues with the London and subsequent conferences of this type is that there is no ‘deliverable’ beyond the Chairman’s summation under his own authority.”

In his remarks at the conference, Meyer decried “the relative dearth of preventive diplomacy and the apparent dominance of militarized approaches to achieving security in cyberspace.”

U.S. officials warned of the threat to the United States from a devastating cyberattack and provided new details on how the U.S. could respond to one.

New ATT Plan Advances

Daryl G. Kimball

Three months after a July UN diplomatic conference failed to reach consensus on a new treaty to regulate the conventional arms trade, a group of key states has offered a new proposal at the United Nations for a follow-up conference to be held in early 2013.

The proposed arms trade treaty (ATT) would require that all states put in place national regulations on international arms transfers, establish common international standards for approving the transfers, and mandate regular reporting on them.

The resolution on an ATT conference, which was put forward by Argentina, Australia, Costa Rica, Finland, Japan, Kenya, and the United Kingdom, would convene a “final” UN conference on an ATT from March 18 to 28, 2013, under the rules established for the July conference, including the rule calling for final adoption of the treaty text by consensus. The resolution also would establish that the draft treaty text submitted by conference president Roberto García Moritán on July 26 is the basis for further negotiations.

Reflecting the broad support evident at the July conference, the new resolution has attracted more than 50 co-sponsor states since it was introduced in mid-October at the UN General Assembly First Committee. The resolution calls on the UN secretary-general to undertake consultations on the selection of a conference president.

The proposal would give states another chance to overcome the 11th-hour decision by the United States and a handful of other states to withhold their support for the July 26 draft treaty text. When they announced the decision, U.S. State Department officials said they needed additional time to address their remaining concerns. (See ACT, September 2012.)

In a statement delivered at the UN debate on the resolution Oct. 24, Walter Reid, U.S. deputy permanent representative to the Conference on Disarmament, said, “The United States strongly supports convening a short UN conference next spring to continue our efforts to negotiate an effective ATT that will address the issues of international arms trade and its regulation by establishing high standards, that can be implemented on a national basis, and that the overwhelming majority of other states can embrace and take forward effectively.”

In his statement, Reid also said the United States supported the ATT resolution. He argued that “[w]e should use the time between now and the spring to reflect on the text…to determine what additional changes are required to make that text an acceptable and effective treaty.”

Many states, including the members of the European Union, have argued that the only way to achieve universal support for an ATT and ensure the treaty is effective is to negotiate substantive matters on the basis of the consensus rule. Yet, most states are keen not to allow a repeat of the outcome of the July conference. In an Oct. 10 statement to the First Committee, the Nigerian delegation stressed that the consensus rule should “not be exercised as a power of veto.”

One issue on which consensus may be difficult to achieve is how the treaty should address ammunition transfers. The July 26 draft treaty text would require that all states “establish and maintain a national control system to regulate the export of ammunition for conventional arms” covered by the treaty and apply the authorization criteria and prohibitions established by the treaty prior to authorizing any export of ammunition.

Although the United States regulates its ammunition exports, U.S. officials have repeatedly said they do not want ammunition included in the treaty. Most other states, including the United Kingdom and many African countries, have been adamant that the treaty should mandate that states regulate their ammunition exports in order to reduce illicit ammunition transfers and retransfers to conflict zones.

The First Committee is expected to vote in early November on the resolution for the March 2013 conference. Diplomatic sources say the resolution will likely win approval.

Three months after a July UN diplomatic conference failed to reach consensus on a new treaty to regulate the conventional arms trade, a group of key states has offered a new proposal for a follow-up conference to be held in early 2013.

Toward a WMD-Free Middle East

Daryl G. Kimball

By the end of this year, representatives from more than a dozen Middle Eastern states may come together for an unprecedented meeting in Helsinki on creating a zone free of weapons of mass destruction (WMD). Given their history of conflict; the presence of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons in the region; and the prospect of further proliferation, these states can ill afford to squander the opportunity.

Clearly, a Middle Eastern WMD-free zone is a daunting and distant goal. But the step-by-step pursuit of such a zone can strengthen the security of all states in the region over time. Severe tensions over Iran’s nuclear program, as well as Syria’s brutal civil war, threaten to derail the meeting. Delaying the process, however, will only worsen the proliferation risks in the future.

For more than two decades, all of the states of the Middle East have voiced support for a regional zone free of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction. Not surprisingly, chronic distrust and animosity between Israel and its Arab neighbors have stymied progress.

Finally, in 2010 the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) review conference agreed, for the first time, to convene a conference of all Middle Eastern states on such a zone by 2012. Last year, Finland was called to facilitate the conference with the support of Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

To date, no one has turned down the invitation from conference coordinator Jaakko Laajava, but not everyone has accepted. The participation of Iran and Israel is most in doubt.

The United States played a critical role in winning support at the 2010 NPT conference for the meeting on the Middle Eastern WMD-free zone. Now, Washington must work even harder to bring key states, particularly Israel, to the table.

Israel has long asserted that a dialogue on limiting WMD capabilities in the region cannot advance without progress toward normal and peaceful relations. Israel is leery of the proposed conference because it could spotlight the Israeli arsenal of 75 to 200 nuclear weapons and the country’s absence from the NPT.

But if Israel does not join the talks on regional WMD control issues, it will only draw more attention to its 45-year-old regional nuclear weapons monopoly and provide others with an excuse to maintain or improve their WMD and missile capabilities.

By engaging in the process of negotiating a WMD-free zone, Israeli leaders can underscore the need to address the threats posed by Syria’s chemical arsenal and Iran’s uranium-enrichment program, open a much needed security dialogue with Arab states, and help put into motion overdue steps that verifiably curtail the WMD potential of its neighbors.

For Iran, the meeting is an opportunity to lend credibility to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s fatwa against nuclear weapons and to reinforce the taboo against chemical weapons, which were used by Saddam Hussein in the brutal Iran-Iraq war. If Tehran is a no-show or spoiler at the Helsinki conference, it would only increase suspicions that it is seeking nuclear weapons and deepen its political isolation.

The United States and other countries can help by pushing Egypt and other Arab governments to engage in a serious and sustained technical dialogue on region-wide WMD issues, rather than simply using the forum to chide Israel. For instance, the meeting provides an opportunity to send a united message to Tehran to limit its enrichment work to the level of power reactor fuel and immediately cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to verify that past nuclear weapons-related experiments have stopped.

Over time, a dialogue on a Middle Eastern WMD-free zone can explore the broad framework and the interim steps that would strengthen regional peace and security. Key elements should include compliance with comprehensive IAEA safeguards and an additional protocol, a ban on production of fissile material for weapons and on uranium enrichment beyond normal fuel grade, and accession to the treaties prohibiting biological and chemical weapons.

Ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty by Egypt, Iran, Israel, and Saudi Arabia would add another important barrier against proliferation. In addition, given that 10 states in the region have some ballistic missile capabilities, it is essential to explore mutual and verifiable limitations on the further deployment of ballistic and cruise missiles capable of carrying WMD payloads.

The states should also consider legally binding assurances against attacks involving nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons, backed by security guarantees from the five permanent members of the UN Security Council in the event any state is subjected to a WMD attack.

As a 1991 UN study on the Middle Eastern zone noted, “Only a series of steps that reduce tensions drastically can bring the parties to a serious negotiation. And even then it would not be expected that the negotiations would be quick and easy or that the zone—when agreed—can be fully realized without an extended transition.”

The road ahead will be difficult, but the time to begin is now.

By the end of this year, representatives from more than a dozen Middle Eastern states may come together for an unprecedented meeting in Helsinki on creating a zone free of weapons of mass destruction (WMD). Given their history of conflict; the presence of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons in the region; and the prospect of further proliferation, these states can ill afford to squander the opportunity.

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