“We continue to count on the valuable contributions of the Arms Control Association.”

– President Joe Biden
June 2, 2022
March 2013
Edition Date: 
Friday, March 1, 2013
Cover Image: 

Books of Note

Strategy in the Second Nuclear Age:Power, Ambition, and the Ultimate Weapon

Toshi Yoshihara and James R. Holmes, eds., Georgetown University Press, Washington D.C., 2012, 256 pp.

Serena Kelleher-Vergantini

In their introduction to this collection of essays, editors Toshi Yoshihara and James R. Holmes say a “second nuclear age” began with the entry of new countries into the nuclear circle established by the United States, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, France, and China. A main focus of the book is the strategic calculus of past, current, and prospective nuclear-armed states beyond the original five. The book utilizes a broad concept of strategy that combines assessments of hardware and manpower with analyses of nuclear aspirants’ motives and strategic thinking. By exploring the political and military use or nonuse of nuclear technology, the book attempts to foresee how new nuclear-weapon states will interact with one another and how the “gatekeepers” of the first nuclear age will contend with “gatecrashers” from the second. In their respective chapters on India and Pakistan, Andrew C. Winner and Timothy Hoyt provide an example of the book’s analysis of the interaction of second-age nuclear powers. While Winner attempts to identify the impact that India’s nuclear modernization, specifically, its prospects for an undersea deterrent, will have on the nuclear practices of its rivals, Hoyt analyzes the threats the Pakistani arsenal poses for regional harmony. With reference to the interaction between China and the United States, Christopher T. Yeaw, Andrew S. Erickson, and Michael S. Chase argue that China’s military modernization implies a transition from a “minimum deterrence” to an “effective deterrence” doctrine and may not necessarily translate into a stable U.S.-Chinese strategic relationship. They cite Chinese writings about signaling and escalation control as an indication that Beijing’s crisis behavior could foster miscalculations and lead to an unstable relationship.




A Nuclear Weapons-Free World? Britain, Trident and the Challenges Ahead

Nick Ritchie, Global Issues Series,Palgrave Macmillan, 2012, 251 pp.

Marcus Taylor

In this book, Nick Ritchie, a lecturer at the University of York in the United Kingdom, tackles the British intent to extend its policy of continuous-at-sea deterrence—the presence of one nuclear-armed submarine on global patrol at all times—and the seemingly contradictory goal of total disarmament. Since 1998, the British nuclear arsenal has been made up entirely of submarine-launched ballistic missiles. Now, however, the United Kingdom is debating whether to replace the Trident system with an upgraded version. According to Ritchie, there are multiple factors behind domestic support for a Trident replacement, including the United Kingdom’s identity as a nuclear power and the domestic submarine manufacturing industry. At the same time, he says, countervailing forces, such as reductions in the defense budget and a general reassessment of whether a continuous at-sea deterrent is necessary, are causing many in London to question the need for replacing a system that has such limited utility. Ritchie argues that the “strategic, political, and economic case for renewing Trident is already far from robust” and advocates a reassessment of the need for continuous at-sea deterrence and a reconceptualization of how many deployed warheads constitute a minimum deterrent.

Obama Calls for Deeper Nuclear Cuts

Tom Z. Collina

President Barack Obama used his Feb. 12 State of the Union address in part to reiterate his administration’s interest in achieving further reductions in U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals, but it is unclear what form an agreement might take—a formal treaty or an informal understanding.

In his address, Obama said the United States would “engage Russia to seek further reductions in our nuclear arsenals.” According to accounts published before the speech by the Center for Public Integrity on Feb. 8 and The New York Times on Feb. 10, an internal administration review has determined that the number of U.S. deployed strategic, or long-range, warheads could drop to 1,000 to 1,100 in the years ahead.

Currently, the United States is deploying about 1,700 strategic nuclear warheads, while Russia is deploying approximately 1,500, according to the U.S. State Department. The 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) with Russia sets a limit of 1,550 deployed strategic warheads on each side by 2018.

In addition to further cuts to deployed strategic warheads, the administration is expected to pursue discussions with Russia on measures that would address nonstrategic, or tactical, warheads, along with warheads in storage. Obama believes the United States can make significant reductions “and save a lot of money, without compromising American security,” an administration official told The New York Times.

Obama’s remarks come as the Defense Department faces significant budget cuts from the congressionally mandated sequestration process established in the 2011 Budget Control Act, which could complicate Pentagon plans to buy new, multibillion-dollar submarine, bomber, and missile delivery systems for nuclear weapons.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich told reporters Feb. 14 that his government was ready to consider new proposals but would also take into account U.S.-NATO plans for ballistic missile defense in Europe. (See ACT, January/February 2013.) Russian officials have said they are concerned that the final phase of the U.S.-NATO missile interceptor plan could undermine Russia’s strategic deterrent and are not willing to consider additional arsenal reductions until these concerns are addressed.

Obama’s Choices for National Security Posts

Many of the top administration officials dealing with national security issues in President Barack Obama’s second term will be new to their positions. The backgrounds of the new officeholders and nominees are summarized below, with an emphasis on their experience in and views on arms control issues.

Secretary of State

Kerry served as a Democratic U.S. senator from Massachusetts from 1985 to 2013, spending 25 years on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the past four years as the committee’s chairman. He was an outspoken proponent of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty and has supported ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

Secretary of Defense

Hagel was a Republican U.S. senator from Nebraska from 1997 to 2009, serving on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the Select Committee on Intelligence. He serves on the advisory board of the organization Global Zero and endorsed a 2012 Global Zero report that proposed reducing the U.S. nuclear arsenal to a total of 900 weapons. Hagel is a Vietnam War veteran who, during his confirmation hearing, advocated restraint in the use of force in resolving international disputes.

CIA Director (nominated)

Brennan currently is assistant to the president for homeland security and counterterrorism. From 1980 to 2005, he worked at the CIA, serving as deputy executive director from 2001 to 2003. Brennan has said he supports diplomatic engagement to resolve U.S. and international concerns about Iran’s nuclear program.

White House Chief of Staff

McDonough has served as deputy national security adviser and National Security Council chief of staff. Prior to those appointments, he was a foreign policy adviser to Obama during the 2008 presidential campaign.—ERIC

Policy Review

The administration has reportedly concluded the internal policy review that supports further reductions in nuclear weapons, but Obama has not formally approved it. Known as the Nuclear Posture Review Implementation Study, the review was expected to be finalized last summer, but has been delayed. (See ACT, June 2011.) A spokeswoman for the National Security Council said via e-mail Feb. 16 that no decisions have been made on the specific timing of any announcement about the results of the review.

As part of an initial round of talks with Russia, Vice President Joe Biden met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Munich on Feb. 2, and in a Feb. 4 appearance on PBS’s Charlie Rose, White House national security adviser Thomas Donilon said he planned to hold additional talks in Moscow in the next month. Donilon said Obama’s speech in Prague in 2009 committed the United States “to lower this world`s reliance on nuclear weapons” and that further reductions with Russia were “part of that agenda.”

The working-level talks are being led by Rose Gottemoeller, acting undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, who said in her prepared text for a Feb. 21 speech at a nuclear policy conference in Arlington, Va., that she was already engaged in dialogue with her Russian counterpart and that she hoped the talks would lead to “greater reciprocal transparency and negotiation of further nuclear weapons reductions.”

Some Senate Republicans already are voicing opposition to Obama’s plans. Sens. Bob Corker (Tenn.), ranking member of the Foreign Relations Committee, and James Inhofe (Okla.), ranking member of the Armed Services Committee, wrote in the Feb. 26 Wall Street Journal that “no arms-control treaty is likely even to get a vote in the Senate” until the U.S. has a modern nuclear infrastructure “capable of responding to any future challenges to the country’s strategic interests.” They were referring to promises the administration made during the New START debate to seek more than $200 billion over 10 years for the National Nuclear Security Administration weapons production complex and Defense Department nuclear weapons delivery systems. (See ACT, March 2011.)

Treaty or Understanding?

Given the potential Senate opposition to further cuts, the administration could decide to pursue a less formal approach rather than negotiate a treaty with Russia that would require Senate approval. Last November, the State Department’s International Security Advisory Board issued a report recommending that Russia and the United States seek additional reductions on the basis of a mutual understanding rather than a formal treaty. Such an understanding “can be quicker and less politically costly, relative to treaties with adversarial negotiations and difficult ratification processes,” the board wrote.

Informal, even unilateral, approaches to U.S.-Russian nuclear arms reductions are not without precedent. In 1991, President George H.W. Bush and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev mutually cut significant numbers of tactical nuclear weapons without a formal treaty. Under their reciprocal Presidential Nuclear Initiatives, the United States and Russia are believed to have reduced their deployed short-range stockpiles by thousands of warheads. Bush asked for and got Russian reciprocity, but did not make it a condition for the U.S. cuts.

Similarly, President George W. Bush was prepared to make unilateral reductions to the deployed U.S. strategic arsenal in 2001, saying “we’ll move by ourselves on offensive weapons.” (See ACT, December 2001.) Secretary of State Colin Powell ultimately persuaded Bush to codify reductions in a treaty with Russia. The two countries subsequently negotiated and brought into force the 2002 Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty.

Corker and Inhofe, however, were critical of unilateral steps. They wrote in the Journal that “a presidential attempt to circumvent Congress by pursuing reductions unilaterally would be counter to the advice of the secretary of defense and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and would be met with stiff resistance on Capitol Hill.”

Speaking on a Feb. 22 panel at the Arlington conference, Rob Soofer, a Republican staffer on the Senate Armed Services Committee, warned that if Obama pursued unilateral cuts, Congress would “try to seek remedies.” Such a move by the administration “could possibly imperil the rest of the president’s arms control agenda,” or even parts of his larger foreign policy agenda that depend on Senate approval of treaties, he said.

President Barack Obama used his Feb. 12 State of the Union address in part to reiterate his administration’s interest in achieving further reductions in U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals, but it is unclear what form an agreement might take—a formal treaty or an informal understanding.

Samore Suggests 2016 Security Summit

Daniel Horner

President Barack Obama should consider holding a nuclear security summit in 2016 rather than ending the ongoing series of summits next year, Gary Samore, Obama’s former chief adviser on arms control, said Feb. 22.

Following up on a proposal that Obama made in his April 2009 speech in Prague, the Obama administration hosted the first nuclear security summit a year later in Washington. The second summit was in Seoul last year. Officials from the United States and several other countries have suggested that next year’s meeting, which is to be held in The Hague, could be the last.

In his remarks at a nuclear policy conference in Arlington, Va., Samore, who until earlier this year was White House coordinator for arms control and weapons of mass destruction terrorism, said “there’s a stronger argument to be made” for holding a 2016 summit in Washington instead of ending the process in 2014.

The additional summit would “create a stronger basis for transferring nuclear security issues from a summit level to more-inclusive venues,” such as the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the United Nations, and would give those institutions time to make sure they can handle their new roles effectively, said Samore, whose duties in the administration included overseeing U.S. preparations for the Washington and Seoul summits.

Citing a high-level nuclear security meeting that the IAEA is planning to hold this July (see ACT, December 2012), Samore said, “I’d like to see how effective and productive that [meeting] is before I decided that it would make sense” for the IAEA to take on major responsibilities in nuclear security.

Officials from the 53 countries that have participated in the summits hold a “range of views” as to whether the series of meetings should continue after next year’s, Samore said. Some of the countries that oppose the idea “have been suspicious from the beginning about the nuclear security summit process,” he said.

Other countries are likely to follow Obama’s lead on the issue, said Samore, who now is executive director of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University. Obama needs to determine whether hosting another summit is worth the energy it would require, he said.

President Barack Obama should consider holding a nuclear security summit in 2016 rather than ending the ongoing series of summits next year, Gary Samore, Obama’s former chief adviser on arms control, said Feb. 22.

MDA Interceptor Flies Successfully

Marcus Taylor

A Jan. 26 test of a three-stage ground-based missile interceptor was a success, the Defense Department’s Missile Defense Agency (MDA) said in a Jan. 26 press release. The test, which did not involve a target missile, was part of the MDA’s effort to recover from two failed Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GMD) intercept tests in 2010.

Initial indications from the test at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California “are that all components performed as designed,” the MDA said.

The January test was designed solely to test the flight performance in space of the exoatmospheric kill vehicle (EKV), the portion of the interceptor that would separate from its booster and is intended to collide with an incoming warhead.

The trial was the first flight test following a guidance system failure in the missile during a December 2010 test and is part of a larger test series designed to pinpoint and correct design flaws in the Raytheon-designed EKV. The MDA described the test as “the critical first step” in returning to successful testing of the GMD system. Aviation Week reported that the MDA is planning to conduct a test with a target missile between March and June.

According to the MDA, the system has had seven successful intercepts out of 14 tests, not counting a partial test in 1999 and a “no test” in 2007, giving the system a 50 percent success rate. The existing GMD system was criticized as “fragile” and ineffective in a September 2012 report by a committee of the National Academy of Sciences.

Separately, the MDA announced Feb. 13 that its Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense system successfully intercepted a medium-range ballistic missile in a flight test over the Pacific Ocean. The system used Space Tracking and Surveillance System satellites to trace the target missile and guide the Standard Missile-3 Block 1A interceptor’s kinetic warhead, the release said. This was the system’s 24th successful intercept in 30 flight attempts since 2002, according to the MDA

A Jan. 26 test of a three-stage ground-based missile interceptor was a success, the Defense Department’s Missile Defense Agency (MDA) said in a Jan. 26 press release. The test, which did not involve a target missile, was part of the MDA’s effort to recover from two failed Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GMD) intercept tests in 2010

NATO Agrees on New Arms Control Body

Oliver Meier

After nine months of negotiations, NATO on Feb. 8 agreed on the mandate of a new arms control body and assigned it the task of preparing a dialogue with Russia on confidence-building and transparency measures on tactical nuclear weapons.

Russia, which possesses more tactical nuclear weapons than the United States, has made any discussion of the issue contingent on a withdrawal of the remaining 180 U.S. nuclear weapons believed to still be deployed in five European countries under NATO’s nuclear sharing arrangements. Moscow also is insisting on a compromise on NATO’s missile defense plans.

Against this background, the allies are currently considering how best to engage Russia in a process of confidence building on tactical nuclear weapons. This could include declarations of weapons holdings and locations, joint visits to storage sites, or agreements to relocate weapons away from Russian borders, diplomats said. At its first meeting, on Feb. 12, the arms control committee discussed such confidence-building measures and agreed that it would build on the work done on the issue under its predecessor, the Weapons of Mass Destruction and Disarmament Committee, the diplomats said.

According to the diplomats, one contentious issue within the alliance is the level of Russian reciprocity NATO will require before it changes its nuclear posture. Some allies prefer a strictly symmetrical approach, while others argue that NATO should be more flexible.

Another topic to be decided is whether NATO should present Russia with a comprehensive package of transparency and confidence-building measures or whether a step-by-step approach would be more promising. Those preferring the latter approach are worried that an elaborate proposal could be “dead on arrival,” leaving NATO with few options for follow-on steps, one of the diplomats said.

Another possibility for the new body is a role in addressing other arms control issues, including a dialogue between Russia and the United States on further nuclear weapons reductions. The committee has been assigned to provide a venue for consultations on the U.S.-Russian dialogue on strategic stability and nuclear arms cuts. That issue is scheduled to be on the agenda of the committee’s second meeting, on March 5.

The committee has its origins in NATO’s Deterrence and Defense Posture Review report, which the allies endorsed at their May 2012 summit in Chicago. A potential role for the committee is to continue unfinished debates from the posture review, but this remains a contentious issue, and the terms of reference are vague on this point, the diplomats said.

NATO Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs and Security Policy Dirk Brengelmann chairs the new committee. The United States, however, will assume the chair when U.S.-Russian arms control issues are on the agenda.

After nine months of negotiations, NATO on Feb. 8 agreed on the mandate of a new arms control body and assigned it the task of preparing a dialogue with Russia on confidence-building and transparency measures on tactical nuclear weapons.

In Memoriam: Max M. Kampelman (1920-2013)

Barry M. Blechman

Max M. Kampelman, an adviser to Republican and Democratic presidents, an accomplished attorney, and a shrewd, tough-minded, and effective negotiator, died January 25 at his home in Washington. He was 92.

Idealistic in some ways, Kampelman nonetheless understood the ins and outs of Washington politics and policymaking better than most and was able to take advantage of these pragmatic insights to promote the causes about which he was most passionate.

Born in New York of immigrant parents, he received a law degree from New York University in 1945 after World War II had interrupted his education. A conscientious objector, he registered for alternative service and participated in the war effort by taking part in a government study of starvation. The study was intended to help the United States prepare to treat survivors of the Axis powers’ prisoner-of-war and death camps; Kampelman’s weight reportedly fell from 160 to 100 pounds during the experiments.

After the war, he attended the University of Minnesota, where he received a doctorate in political science. He also began a long-term affiliation with Hubert Humphrey, then mayor of Minneapolis and later a U.S. senator from Minnesota. Kampelman served seven years as legislative counsel in Humphrey’s Senate office before joining the law firm now known as Fried Frank in 1955. Subsequently, he served as an unofficial adviser to Humphrey during his two presidential campaigns.

Despite his lifelong identification as a Democrat, Kampelman was able to serve presidents of each party. In 1980, President Jimmy Carter appointed him to represent the United States in talks intended to put teeth into the 1975 Helsinki accords, a landmark agreement to protect the human rights of individuals on both sides of the Iron Curtain. President Ronald Reagan retained Kampelman as the lead negotiator in the talks until an agreement was completed in 1983.

Kampelman’s most important successes, however, concerned nuclear arms control and disarmament. In 1985, Reagan appointed him as the lead U.S. negotiator in the talks on the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START). Kampelman served in Geneva for four years, laying the foundation for the treaty, which was finally concluded in 1991.

He was a voice of reason and a skilled negotiator and bureaucratic operator during the Reagan years, blunting more-strident voices advising the president. He also was with Reagan at Reykjavik in 1986, when the Soviet Union and the United States came within a whisper of reaching an agreement in principle to eliminate all nuclear weapons. Kampelman often said that the failure to conclude this agreement was the greatest disappointment of his professional life.

Reykjavik left Kampelman determined to fan the flame of nuclear disarmament, and he devoted much of his later life to encouraging progress toward eliminating nuclear weapons—not the sort of incremental arms control he had negotiated in START, but a sweeping agreement that could rid the earth of these weapons in only a few years. Thus, his lasting legacy may well be the rebirth of the nuclear disarmament movement during the past decade. He worked behind the scenes to inspire the four statesmen—Henry Kissinger, Sam Nunn, William Perry, and George Shultz—whose articles and meetings with world leaders made it legitimate in policy circles, for the first time, to advocate seriously the goal of eliminating nuclear weapons. Kampelman also was an early backer of Global Zero, a popular movement working for worldwide nuclear disarmament.

He was an old-style Washington hand. He believed firmly in the adage that one could accomplish much by remaining in the background and giving others the public credit. He believed just as strongly in bipartisanship. When an idea for advancing policy struck him, he was indefatigable in its pursuit, exploring every avenue for its implementation and every opportunity to bring it to the attention of policymakers, twisting and turning it to find the best means of making it attractive to those in power. It was this relentlessness that permitted him to persuade Soviet leaders to release hundreds of political and religious dissidents during the most difficult days of the renewed Cold War, and it was with this same determination and increasing impatience that he pursued nuclear disarmament during his final years. When I described a 10-year disarmament plan to him at one of our last meetings, he dismissed it. “I’m already over 90,” he said. “I don’t have that much time to see my grandchildren made safe from a nuclear catastrophe.”

Kampelman was little known in the country at large, but widely respected in Washington. In 1989 he received the Presidential Citizens Medal from President George H.W. Bush and, in 1999, the nation’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, from President Bill Clinton. Could there be a better testament to his bipartisanship? He will be sorely missed.



Barry M. Blechman is a distinguished fellow at the Stimson Center.

Max M. Kampelman, an adviser to Republican and Democratic presidents, an accomplished attorney, and a shrewd, tough-minded, and effective negotiator, died January 25 at his home in Washington. He was 92.

North Korea Conducts Nuclear Test

Kelsey Davenport

Defying warnings from the international community, North Korea conducted its third nuclear test Feb. 12 at its underground testing site, the state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) announced. The blast prompted discussion of the need for a new policy toward North Korea, which had conducted a rocket launch two months earlier.

The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) confirmed seismic activity in the area “with explosion-like characteristics,” the organization said in a press release later the same day. In his State of the Union address, also on Feb. 12, U.S. President Barack Obama condemned Pyongyang’s “provocations,” saying they will only “further isolate” the country.

The nuclear test was not unexpected. On Jan. 24, North Korea announced that it would conduct a nuclear test, but did not give a specific date. The announcement came two days after the UN Security Council passed a resolution strengthening sanctions against Pyongyang in response to North Korea’s Dec. 12 satellite launch. UN Security Council resolutions prohibit Pyongyang from such launches because the technology required for a satellite launch is directly applicable to ballistic missile development.

North Korea conducted previous nuclear tests in October 2006 and May 2009, although the 2006 test likely misfired partially, according to experts. Pyongyang declared its withdrawal from the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty in April 2003. Other parties to the treaty have not formally recognized the move, and UN Security Council resolutions from 2006 and 2009 require Pyongyang to halt its nuclear activities and refrain from nuclear testing.

In the KCNA statement, which was issued shortly after the test, Pyongyang said it would continue testing and building its arsenal unless the United States recognized its right to launch satellites and develop its nuclear program.

North Korea is estimated to have enough plutonium for approximately four to eight weapons. As a result of a 2005 denuclearization agreement, Pyongyang currently does not have the ability to produce more plutonium, but has been developing the capabilities to produce highly enriched uranium (HEU). A key question about the February test is whether the device was made from HEU.

Experts say that determining which fuel was used for the nuclear core of the bomb will be very difficult even if the radioactive gases produced by the test are detected by remote monitoring systems. To date, CTBTO radionuclide stations have not detected signs of the test, nor have any national governments publicly reported radionuclide readings from their systems.

According to the CTBTO press release, the seismic activity picked up on Feb. 12 by the organization’s global monitoring system was 4.9 in magnitude, making the explosion about twice as large as the May 2009 test, which was estimated to have produced a yield of two to six kilotons. North Korea’s 2006 nuclear test explosion is estimated to have had a yield of less than one kiloton.

During the run-up to the test, experts had said another possible goal would be to test a miniaturized device so that North Korea eventually could place nuclear weapons on its missiles. The KCNA statement said the test had used a miniaturized device. That claim is difficult for outsiders to substantiate, and the statement did not provide additional details.

“The 2006 and 2009 tests demonstrated that North Korea can build a nuclear device, but that its nuclear arsenal is likely restricted to bulky devices that would need to be delivered by plane, boat, or van, thereby greatly limiting their deterrent value,” Siegfried Hecker, former director of Los Alamos National Laboratory, said in an interview published Feb. 14 on the website of Stanford University’s Center for International Security and Cooperation, where Hecker now is a senior fellow.

“This test makes Pyongyang’s nuclear arsenal appear more threatening by taking it one more step closer to possessing a missile-deliverable nuclear weapon,” but the North Koreans “have yet to demonstrate that they have developed an intercontinental ballistic missile” (ICBM), he said. To develop an ICBM capable of delivering a nuclear payload, North Korea would require much more flight-testing of its long-range missiles and additional nuclear tests, Hecker said.

Calls for New Policy

Following the most recent nuclear test and satellite launch, many experts and government officials are calling for a new policy toward North Korea.

The current U.S. policy, which administration officials have dubbed “strategic patience,” calls for increasing pressure on North Korea through sanctions while waiting for it to indicate that it is willing to come to talks with a serious intention to follow through on its earlier commitments to abandon its nuclear weapons program. Only then will talks with North Korea resume, according to U.S. officials.

Talks between North Korea and five other countries—China, Japan, Russia, South Korea, and the United States—broke down in April 2009 when North Korea indicated that it no longer would participate. Additionally, on Jan. 23 of this year, North Korea formally voided a 1992 joint declaration with South Korea that pledged to keep the Korean peninsula free of nuclear weapons.

Speaking on Feb. 19 at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies’ conference in Seoul, Robert Gallucci, a former U.S. negotiator with North Korea, said that U.S. policy toward North Korea has “failed to reduce the threat posed by North Korea to the security of the region.”

To move forward, Gallucci said, it is necessary to determine the intentions of North Korea’s nuclear program. If Pyongyang’s purpose in developing its nuclear arsenal is to deter an attack by the United States or South Korea, there is “hope for diplomacy,” and the right combination might be found to defuse the situation and build trust, he said. In this case, talks should “address a range of political, economic, and security issues” rather than focusing solely on the nuclear program, but the “endgame” must envision North Korea abandoning its nuclear program, Gallucci said.

On the other hand, if North Korea’s purpose is to threaten the United States with ICBMs or to unify the Korean peninsula by force, then “constant avoidance of conflict,” rather than easing tensions, may be the best that can be achieved, said Gallucci, who now is president of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. (The Arms Control Association, which publishes Arms Control Today, receives funding from the foundation.)

Also speaking at the Asan Institute conference, Chung Mong-joon, a member of the South Korean National Assembly, said it is very unlikely that North Korea will give up its nuclear weapons. Therefore, he said, the United States, which withdrew all its tactical nuclear weapons from South Korea in 1991, should strengthen extended deterrence by returning those weapons to South Korea.

In South Korea, there appears to be growing public support for that move after the third test. A Feb. 13-15 poll by the Asan Institute indicated that two-thirds of South Koreans favored the return of these weapons to the country. A similar number supported the idea of South Korea building its own nuclear arsenal, according to the institute.

Another former U.S. policymaker with experience negotiating with North Korea, Joel Wit, argued Feb. 19 that the United States and other countries should continue diplomatic engagement with Pyongyang regardless of whether an agreement can be reached. Diplomacy “provides clarity” about North Korea’s intentions and helps build diplomatic coalitions, particularly with China, he said.

Further Sanctions

The latest North Korean nuclear test is likely to produce further sanctions, Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said Feb. 12. The Security Council is considering a number of measures, including financial sanctions, she said. North Korea already is subject to a wide range of Security Council and U.S. sanctions designed to impede Pyongyang’s progress on its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

Further unilateral action by the United States appears likely. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) said in a Feb. 12 press release that he is working on legislation aimed at ensuring that North Korea “pays a price for its continued reckless behavior.”

In a Feb. 24 e-mail to Arms Control Today, George Lopez, a former member of a UN panel that assessed the implementation of sanctions against North Korea, said that it is unlikely that instituting new financial sanctions will have the same impact that they did in the past.

Lopez said that there is no “low-hanging illicit financial fruit”—equivalent to Banco Delta Asia, whose assets the U.S. Treasury Department froze in 2005 after an extensive investigation into the bank’s activities—that could be targeted by financial sanctions. Nevertheless, the United States may put particular banks in China and in the region on “extra warning” and issue statements that they are “off limits” to U.S. and U.S.-related financial entities if they are suspected of dealing with certain North Korean entities, he said. Lopez suggested that the financial sanctions passed by the European Union, including restrictions on the use of gold, can be instructive for “newer and creative measures.”

Furthermore, he said, additional sanctions do not solve the problem of Chinese enforcement of existing sanctions. Chinese leaders may be more likely to support increased enforcement efforts if they believe that there is a potential for Japan and South Korea to move forward with the development of nuclear weapons and missiles, Lopez said.

Defying warnings from the international community, North Korea conducted its third nuclear test Feb. 12 at its underground testing site, the state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) announced. The blast prompted discussion of the need for a new policy toward North Korea, which had conducted a rocket launch two months earlier.

Iran Installs Advanced Centrifuges

Kelsey Davenport

Iran announced last month that it began installing advanced centrifuges at its production-scale uranium-enrichment plant at Natanz, and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) confirmed that the installation of 180 advanced centrifuges had begun.

Fereydoun Abbasi, head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, said in Tehran on Feb. 13 that Iran is “carrying out the installation” of the new centrifuges and would be “starting them up gradually.” When operational, they would be used to produce uranium enriched to 3.5 percent, he said. Uranium enriched to this level is suitable for nuclear power reactors, but Iran’s sole nuclear power reactor is fueled by enriched uranium provided by Russia.

For that reason and others, some countries have said Iran is pursuing a nuclear weapons capability. With further enrichment, the reactor-grade fuel could be made suitable for use in a nuclear weapon. Iran insists that its nuclear program is entirely for peaceful purposes.

Tehran notified the IAEA on Jan. 23 of its intention to start installing the new machines, known as the IR-2M, according to the IAEA quarterly report on Iran released Feb. 21. The IR-2M is a second-generation model based on Iran’s original gas centrifuge, the IR-1. According to IAEA reports from 2012, Iran has been testing the IR-2M in its research and development area at Natanz for years, but the advanced centrifuges had not been introduced into the facility there that produces enriched uranium.

The IAEA report did not state how many of the new machines Iran planned to install, but it said that the Jan. 23 letter mentioned installing them in a particular unit at the Natanz enrichment plant. That unit can hold approximately 3,000 centrifuges. When operational, these centrifuges could significantly increase Iran’s ability to produce enriched uranium, as they are likely to be more efficient that the IR-1s. According to the IAEA report, Iran was producing uranium enriched to 3.5 percent and 20 percent at Natanz, using approximately 9,300 IR-1 centrifuges.

In Feb. 8 remarks in Washington, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry called Iran’s intention to install the advanced centrifuges “disturbing,” but affirmed the U.S. commitment to negotiating with Iran. (See "P5+1 Revises Proposal Ahead of New Talks.")

Iran maintains that its nuclear program is peaceful and that the uranium enriched to 20 percent is necessary to fuel the Tehran Research Reactor, which produces medical isotopes. The international community is concerned about the growing stockpile of 20 percent-enriched uranium, which can be transformed relatively easily into weapons-grade material.

Iran also produces uranium enriched to 20 percent at its facility at Fordow, but there is no indication that Tehran plans to install the advanced centrifuges at that facility. In its November report on Iran, the IAEA said approximately 2,800 IR-1 centrifuges, Fordow’s maximum capacity, had been installed at the facility already.

Increased Efficiency

According to Abbasi, the new centrifuges are “more durable” and “more efficient.”

R. Scott Kemp, a former science adviser in the State Department’s Office of the Special Advisor for Nonproliferation and Arms Control, said that it is difficult to predict how the new centrifuges will perform because a centrifuge’s performance in a cascade could be “significantly different” from its performance as an individual machine. In an enrichment plant, numerous centrifuge machines are linked together into cascades.

In a Feb. 14 e-mail to Arms Control Today, Kemp said that although Iran can make the IR-2M and therefore understands its characteristics, the real question is whether Tehran “can supply or obtain the needed raw materials,” particularly carbon fiber, to mass-produce the new centrifuges. A June 2012 report by a UN Security Council panel of experts that monitors the implementation of sanctions against Iran identified high-quality carbon fiber as a material that Iran was unlikely to be able to produce domestically.

According to former IAEA Deputy Director-General Olli Heinonen, now a senior fellow at Harvard University’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, the installation of 3,000 advanced centrifuges could double Iran’s output of uranium enriched to reactor grade.

Speaking at a Feb. 6 event at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Heinonen said the IR-2M optimally is about six times more efficient than the IR-1. Because of sanctions, however, Iran is unlikely to have obtained the highest-grade materials for manufacturing the centrifuges and therefore is unlikely to reach that level, he said. A tripling or quadrupling in efficiency might be a more realistic estimate, he said.

Iran-IAEA Talks

Also on Feb. 13, IAEA representatives met with Iranian officials in Tehran to continue negotiating an approach for the agency’s investigations into the possible military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear activities. Iran and the IAEA have been meeting for more than a year in an attempt to reach agreement on the scope and sequence of the investigations.

Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Iran’s ambassador to the IAEA, led the Iranian delegation. In remarks after the meeting, he said that the parties had made progress and agreed on “some points,” but he did not specify what the points were.

IAEA Deputy Director-General Herman Nackaerts, the agency’s top safeguards official, said the parties “could not finalize” an agreement and did not comment on whether they had made progress. He said that the IAEA “will work hard to try and resolve the remaining differences.” The two sides did not agree on a date for another round of talks, Nackaerts said, adding that “time is needed to reflect on the way forward.”

Iran announced last month that it began installing advanced centrifuges at its production-scale uranium-enrichment plant at Natanz, and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) confirmed that the installation of 180 advanced centrifuges had begun.

P5+1 Revises Proposal Ahead of New Talks

Kelsey Davenport

For an analysis of the Feb. 26-27 Almaty talks, click here.

Six world powers revised their proposal for negotiating with Iran over its controversial nuclear program ahead of a new round of talks, which were scheduled to resume in Almaty, Kazakhstan, on Feb. 26 after an eight-month hiatus.

Negotiations between Iran and the six countries (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States), known as the P5+1 because the group comprises the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany, stalled in June after three rounds of talks in three months. At the time, negotiators from the two sides said they had addressed critical issues during the meetings but that gaps remained, preventing the scheduling of another round of talks. (See ACT, July/August 2012.)

British Foreign Secretary William Hague said Feb. 6 that the P5+1 would approach the talks at the next meeting with an “updated and credible offer for Iran.” A U.S. State Department official confirmed Feb. 7 that the proposal that the P5+1 brought to the negotiations for the 2012 meetings has been updated to “reflect developments that occurred since June” in Iran’s nuclear program, but did not provide details on the changes.

A Reuters news report on Feb. 15 quoted Western officials as saying that the United States might consider lifting sanctions that prevent countries from paying Iran for oil and other commodities with precious metals if Iran stops its production of 20 percent-enriched uranium and closes the Fordow enrichment plant. At a press briefing that day, a White House spokesman declined comment on that issue.

It is unclear if Iran updated its proposal prior to the Almaty talks. On Feb. 4, Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said that Iran was “ready to offer objective guarantees compatible with all legal standards and international conventions that Iran will never deviate from the peaceful purposes it is pursuing in its nuclear program.”

The talks come amid growing concern that the opportunity for negotiations may be limited because of internal Iranian politics preceding the country’s June presidential elections. In his Feb. 12 State of the Union address, U.S. President Barack Obama said that the Iranians “must recognize that now is the time for a diplomatic solution because a coalition stands united in demanding that they meet their obligations.”

The P5+1 proposal discussed during the 2012 talks required Iran to shut down the Fordow facility, halt the process of enriching uranium to 20 percent, and ship its stockpile of uranium that had already been enriched to 20 percent out of the country. The stockpile and continued production of 20 percent-enriched uranium are a primary concern for the P5+1 because uranium at this enrichment level can be turned into weapons-grade material more quickly than uranium prepared for power reactors. Iran maintains that it needs uranium enriched to 20 percent to fuel the Tehran Research Reactor, which produces medical isotopes.

In return, under the 2012 proposal, Iran would receive fuel plates for that reactor, international assistance in nuclear safety and for construction of a light-water reactor, and spare parts for civilian aircraft.

Iranian officials rejected the proposal, saying that it did not address their principal concerns, namely, sanctions relief and recognition of the right that Iran claims it has under the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty to continue enriching uranium.

Since the June negotiations, Iran’s nuclear program has continued to make progress. The international community, concerned over the advances, has increased pressure on the regime by passing further sanctions.

On Feb. 6, a new U.S sanctions measure went into effect. It requires that non-Iranian banks facilitating payments for Iranian oil hold the funds and use them only for bilateral trade between Iran and the country in which the bank is located. If a non-Iranian bank allows the payments to go to an Iranian bank or transfers them to another country, it could face U.S. sanctions.

The U.S. measure also tightened controls against payment to Iran in precious metals. That measure particularly had an impact on Turkish trade with Tehran, as Ankara had been paying for imports from Iran with precious metals such as gold.

Iran’s stockpile of 20 percent-enriched uranium also has increased, although Tehran apparently does not have enough to make a nuclear weapon. Iran has a known stockpile of about 167 kilograms of 20 percent-enriched uranium. Experts estimate that, with further enrichment, about 250 kilograms would be sufficient to make a bomb.

Additionally, Iran announced that it would begin installing its next-generation centrifuges at its Natanz uranium-enrichment plant on Jan. 23, a development that could dramatically increase Iran’s ability to produce enriched uranium once those centrifuges are operational. (See "Iran Installs Advanced Centrifuges.")

Six world powers revised their proposal for negotiating with Iran over its controversial nuclear program ahead of a new round of talks, which were scheduled to resume in Almaty, Kazakhstan, on Feb. 26 after an eight-month hiatus.

GAO Sees Flaws in Missile Defense Plan

Tom Z. Collina

The Obama administration’s plan for missile interceptor deployments in Europe may not be effective against long-range missiles launched at the United States from Iran, a congressionally sponsored study has concluded.

The review, which is based on classified technical reports, found that “modifications are needed” in the way that the system would operate and where it would be based. Those changes could lead to significant safety risks and cost increases, said the study, which was conducted by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), a nonpartisan investigative arm of Congress.

The review looked at the final phase of the Obama administration’s missile defense plan, called the European Phased Adaptive Approach, which was announced in September 2009. A key part of the plan is the deployment of Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) IIB interceptors in Poland around 2022. (See ACT, January/February 2013.) The review was requested last September by Rep. Michael Turner (R-Ohio), who at the time was chairman of the House Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee, and was presented to the subcommittee Jan. 29. The GAO released the report, which consists of briefing slides and a cover letter on Feb. 11.

The GAO outlined a number of areas in which the Missile Defense Agency (MDA), which is part of the Defense Department, may need to revise its plans for the SM-3 IIB. The United States had planned to deploy the missiles in Romania and Poland in order to intercept future long-range missiles launched from Iran, but MDA technical analysts have since found that the Romanian site “was not a good location from a flight path standpoint” for the SM-3 IIB to defend the United States, the GAO said. Based on MDA findings, the site in Poland may “require the development of the ability to launch the interceptor earlier,” namely, during the incoming missile’s boost phase, when its engines are still firing, “to be useful for U.S. homeland defense,” the GAO said.

According to the GAO, the MDA analysis suggested that basing the interceptors on ships in the North Sea would be better than deploying them in Romania or Poland and would not require the early launch of interceptors, as basing them in Poland would. But the MDA found that this option could have “significant safety risks” and would have “unknown, but likely substantial, cost implications,” the GAO said.

“This report really confirms what I have said all along: that this was a hurried proposal by the president,” Turner told the Associated Press on Feb. 9. Turner has said that he wants the United States to revive President George W. Bush’s plan to field larger interceptors in Europe, a plan that President Barack Obama shelved in 2009, as well as build a new missile defense site on the U.S. East Coast.

Given the limitations of the land-based sites in Romania and Poland, the MDA is now requiring that the interceptors also be deployable at sea, the GAO said. Development of the SM-3 IIB is still early in the design phase, and the MDA has not determined whether the interceptor will have liquid propellant in some components. The use of liquid propellant would allow for a faster interceptor, the GAO said.

If liquid propellant is used, however, the Navy, which would deploy the missiles on its Aegis-equipped ships, would be concerned about the risk of fire, the GAO said. Because of such concerns, the Navy banned the use of liquid missile fuels on its ships in 1988. The GAO said that the Navy has not made a final decision on whether it would overturn this ban to allow liquid-fueled interceptors on ships.

According to the GAO, the SM-3 IIB could have a 27-inch diameter, as opposed to the 21-inch diameter for other, slower SM-3 versions that would intercept shorter-range missiles. The wider interceptor would raise costs for the Navy, which would have to outfit its ships with wider launchers, the GAO said. North Sea deployment also would require the Navy to dedicate additional ships to the program, the GAO said.

The Obama administration remains committed to its European deployment plan, a State Department spokesman said by e-mail Feb. 13.

For interceptors that are based in Poland to be effective, the GAO said, they may have to be able to launch shortly after the launch of the attacking missile, while that missile is still in its boost phase, but the actual intercept would not occur until after that phase, when the attacking missile is no longer firing. Intercepting a missile just after boost phase is known as “early intercept.”

Advocates of early intercept have argued that it is a way to avoid the need to differentiate between real warheads and fake ones as they travel through space, which is one of the most significant challenges to intercepting a warhead carried by a long-range missile. If the defense cannot distinguish real warheads from decoys, then it must shoot its limited supply of interceptors at all of them, degrading the system’s effectiveness. In a Feb. 26 e-mail to Arms Control Today, an MDA spokesman said that “by destroying missiles early” in flight, the MDA hopes to avoid “the costs of maintaining a significant number of expensive interceptors to destroy advanced countermeasures in a later phase of a threat missile’s flight.”

Early intercept is a controversial concept, even within the MDA. The GAO found that a 2010 MDA analysis concluded that launch of the interceptor during the boost phase of the attacking missile “was not a desirable capability” as it reduces the effective range of the interceptor. Since then, a 2012 MDA assessment found this capability was “feasible” but would require modifying the SM-3 IIB, missile defense command and control systems, and space-based sensors.

But expert panels of the National Academy of Sciences and the Defense Science Board, an advisory group to the Pentagon, have said that early intercept is impractical because interceptors cannot fly fast enough to reach the attacking missile in time. (See ACT, May 2012.)

The Obama administration’s plan for missile interceptor deployments in Europe may not be effective against long-range missiles launched at the United States from Iran, a congressionally sponsored study has concluded.


Subscribe to RSS - March 2013