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August 27, 2018
April 2013
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Amano Reports No Progress on Iran

Kelsey Davenport

Clarification made online on June 4, 2013.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has not made “any progress” in talks with Iran on clarifying Tehran’s responses to the agency’s concerns about the possible military dimensions of Iranian nuclear activities, IAEA Director-General Yukiya Amano said last month.

The IAEA first laid out its suspicions about Iranian nuclear efforts allegedly relating to weapons development in a November 2011 report to its Board of Governors. (See ACT, December 2011.) Iran and the IAEA have met nine times since then to negotiate a framework for resolving the agency’s concerns, but have failed to come to an agreement about the scope and sequence of the investigation. At the most recent meeting, on Feb. 13, IAEA Deputy Director-General Herman Nackaerts said the two sides had not set a date for further talks. (See ACT, March 2013.)

In his March 4 remarks to the board’s quarterly meeting in Vienna, Amano discussed the findings of a Feb. 21 IAEA report on Iran’s nuclear program and said that Tehran “is not providing the necessary cooperation” to enable the agency to conclude that there are no undeclared nuclear activities in Iran.

In a Feb. 22 letter to Amano, Iranian Ambassador to the IAEA Ali Asghar Soltanieh disputed the findings of the Feb. 21 report, saying that “all declared nuclear material in Iran is accounted for” and remains under IAEA surveillance.

Iran, P5+1 Hold Technical Meeting

Iran and six world powers held a technical-level meeting in Istanbul on March 18 to discuss the details of proposals put forward by each side during negotiations in February to address international concerns over Iran’s nuclear program.

Iran and the six countries—China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States, known as the P5+1—had agreed on arrangements for the March meeting during Feb. 26-27 high-level political negotiations in Almaty, Kazakhstan. The Almaty talks marked the resumption of negotiations between the parties after an eight-month hiatus. (See ACT, March 2013.)

The meeting allowed experts from the two sides to “explore each other’s positions on a number of technical subjects,” according to a statement issued after the March 18 meeting by a spokesman for Catherine Ashton, the EU foreign policy chief and P5+1 lead negotiator. Ashton did not attend the meeting; Stephan Klement, her personal representative on nonproliferation issues, led the P5+1 delegation on her behalf.

The statement confirmed the agreement from the February meeting that high-level political talks will resume in Almaty April 5-6. In his statement after the March 18 meeting, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said the talks should progress toward a path that recognizes Iran’s “peaceful nuclear rights and obviates the concerns” of the international community.

Meanwhile, in a March 18 statement marking the Iranian holiday of Nowruz, U.S. President Barack Obama said that the United States and the international community are ready to reach a diplomatic resolution that would “give Iran access to peaceful nuclear energy” while resolving concerns about the “true nature of the Iranian nuclear program.” Iran must take “immediate and meaningful steps to reduce tensions,” Obama said.

The current P5+1 proposal is based on a package offered during talks last year. (See ACT, July/August 2012.) U.S. officials said it was updated to reflect developments in Iran’s nuclear programs over the last eight months. In a March 16 forum in Brussels, Ashton described the proposal as a “first confidence-building measure” rather than the “end package.”

In key changes, the revised proposal reportedly provides limited sanctions relief and allows Iran to keep a portion of its stockpiles of 20 percent-enriched uranium. The stockpile of 20 percent-enriched uranium is a key concern of the P5+1 because uranium enriched to that level can be further enriched to weapons grade with relatively little additional effort. Iran maintains that it needs the 20 percent-enriched material to produce medical isotopes.—KELSEY DAVENPORT

    Last November, at the previous board meeting, Robert Wood, the U.S. representative to the IAEA, said the United States would urge the board to take “appropriate” action in March if Iran did not begin substantive cooperation with the IAEA. Despite Amano’s assertion that no progress was made, the board did not take any new action.

    In a March 29 e-mail to Arms Control Today, a State Department official said, “If Iran continues to refuse to cooperate with the IAEA and take steps to come into compliance with its international nuclear obligations, the United States will work with our friends and allies on the Board of Governors to agree on the most appropriate action to deal with Iran’s intransigence.”

    The official noted that the group of six countries, known as the P5+1, that is negotiating with Iran over its nuclear program “made a joint statement, welcoming continuing but purposeful negotiations between the P5+1 and Iran, and calling on Iran to stop stonewalling the IAEA and answer the outstanding questions about its possible nuclear military activities.”

    In his March 6 statement to the board, Joseph Macmanus, who succeeded Wood as U.S. representative to the IAEA, said the United States would “not accept further delay” by Iran in implementing its IAEA obligations and that “the separate P5+1 diplomatic process cannot be a substitute for such implementation.”

    Macmanus said that the board will need to “consider carefully, and soon,” what steps must be taken to “hold Iran accountable for a continued cycle of deception and delay.”

    IAEA Report

    Tehran is moving forward with the installation of advanced centrifuges at the Natanz Fuel Enrichment Plant, according to the Feb. 21 report. That facility produces reactor-grade uranium enriched to 3.5 percent.

    The report confirmed that, on Feb. 6, Iran sent the IAEA a letter with information on the planned cascade configuration for the second-generation, or IR-2M, centrifuges, but did not include any details from the letter. As of Feb. 19, 180 centrifuges and empty centrifuge casings were installed at Natanz, according to the IAEA. The unit of the building in which the centrifuges are being installed can hold 3,000 machines, according to experts familiar with the facility. Although experts agree that these machines will be more efficient than the first-generation centrifuges, it is not clear how much more efficient they are going to be. (See ACT, March 2013.)

    Iran also is continuing to test advanced centrifuge designs other than the IR-2M. The report noted that Iran installed the IR-6 and IR-6S models in its research and development area at Natanz for the first time and began testing the machines.

    The IAEA also verified the production of Iran’s first fuel assembly for the heavy-water reactor being constructed at Arak. Iran has said the Arak reactor would not be operational until early 2014. The fuel assembly was transferred to a research reactor for irradiation testing.

    Iran maintains that the heavy-water reactor will produce medical isotopes, but experts argue that it is ill suited to that task and poses a proliferation risk because it will produce plutonium more suitable for weapons than a light-water reactor does. Iran does not have a known separation facility and has not declared its intention to build one.

    The report also noted an increase in Iran’s stockpile of 20 percent-enriched uranium to 167 kilograms from the 135 kilograms noted in last November’s report. If Iran decided to enrich uranium to weapons-grade levels, the task would be much easier if it were starting with material enriched to 20 percent rather than reactor-grade uranium.

    According to the IAEA, approximately 250 kilograms of 20 percent-enriched material, when further enriched to weapons grade, is enough for one bomb. Tehran maintains that it needs to produce uranium enriched to 20 percent to fuel a currently operating research reactor that produces medical isotopes.

    U.S. Assessment

    The U.S. intelligence community’s annual “Worldwide Threat Assessment,” issued on March 12, said that although Iran has made progress that “better positions it to produce weapons-grade uranium” using its declared uranium stockpile and facilities, Iran “could not divert” material from its current stockpile for further enrichment without discovery.

    In testimony the same day to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, said it remains unknown if Iran will decide to build nuclear weapons and that the decision to do so rests with the country’s supreme leader.

    The April 2013 news story “Amano Reports No Progress in Iran” said that according to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), about 250 kilograms of 20 percent-enriched uranium, when further enriched to weapons grade, is enough to make one nuclear weapon. That figure has appeared in published articles and was confirmed as accurate by an IAEA staff member, but the IAEA has not made such an estimate in an official document or statement.

    The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has not made “any progress” in talks with Iran on clarifying Tehran’s responses to the agency’s concerns about the possible military dimensions of Iranian nuclear activities, IAEA Director-General Yukiya Amano said last month.

    UN Imposes New Sanctions on N. Korea

    Kelsey Davenport

    The UN Security Council on March 7 unanimously adopted a resolution imposing new sanctions on North Korea in response to Pyongyang’s third nuclear test.

    Several former U.S. officials, however, said that heightened sanctions will not defuse the escalating tensions on the Korean peninsula.

    At a March 7 press briefing after the sanctions were adopted, White House spokesman Jay Carney said Resolution 2094 demonstrates to Pyongyang the “increasing costs” of “defying the international community.” But in testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee the same day, Stephen Bosworth, a former U.S. special representative for North Korea policy, warned that the United States should not be “under any illusions that sanctions are going to solve this problem.”

    Resolution 2094 builds on three earlier resolutions, dating back to October 2006 (see box), that require North Korea to refrain from nuclear and ballistic missile testing and abandon its nuclear program. The resolutions also restrict North Korea from importing conventional weapons, luxury goods, and materials to develop its nuclear and missile programs. Resolutions adopted in October 2006 and June 2009 were responses to nuclear tests, while the third resolution, passed Jan. 22, followed North Korea’s satellite launch last December. North Korea is prohibited from launching satellites because the technology is directly applicable to ballistic missile development.

    In addition to extending the list of materials that Pyongyang cannot import, Resolution 2094 gives states broader rights to inspect cargo that passes through their territories if the states suspect that the cargo may contain illicit materials being imported or exported by North Korea.

    At the March 7 hearing, Glyn Davies, who succeeded Bosworth as North Korea envoy in January 2012, said the interdiction measures in the resolution were a positive step because the export of armaments is a “key source of income” for Pyongyang. The United States should keep working in this area “first and foremost,” he said.

    The resolution also prohibits “bulk” cash transfers into North Korea, restricts Pyongyang’s financial activities, and calls on UN member states to “exercise enhanced vigilance” over North Korean diplomats.

    Carney said that the Security Council also “will take additional measures in the event of another nuclear test or launch.”

    Security Council Sanctions on North Korea

    Over the past seven years, the UN Security Council has adopted four resolutions imposing sanctions on North Korea in response to Pyongyang’s nuclear and ballistic missile activities. All four resolutions passed unanimously.

      Resolution 1718 (Oct. 13, 2006). Adopted in the wake of North Korea’s first nuclear test in October 2006, Resolution 1718 prohibits Pyongyang from conducting future nuclear tests or ballistic missile launches and calls for a complete halt to efforts to pursue nuclear weapons development. The resolution bans a range of exports and imports, notably military weapons and equipment, and imposes an asset freeze and travel ban on people and entities tied to the nuclear program. The resolution also establishes a monitoring body to assess implementation of the sanctions and investigate reported violations.

        Resolution 1874 (June 12, 2009). Further sanctions on North Korea were included in Resolution 1874 in response to the country’s second nuclear test, conducted in May 2009. The resolution imposes restrictions on Pyongyang’s weapons development programs and tightens sanctions on additional goods, including all imports and exports of weapons, and on additional persons and entities with ties to the nuclear program. Financial transfers or loans that could be used to aid the development of nuclear weapons or ballistic missiles also are prohibited. States are authorized to inspect and detain cargo passing to or from North Korea through their territory on land, sea, or air if the cargo is suspected of being used to develop nuclear weapons.

          Resolution 2087 (Jan. 22, 2013).Resolution 2087 was passed after North Korea’s December 2012 rocket launch and again condemned Pyongyang’s pursuit of a ballistic missile program. It calls on North Korea to resume the six-party talks with China, Japan, Russia, South Korea, and the United States. It strengthens existing sanctions and calls again for states to enforce inspections of North Korean cargo suspected of being involved in the nuclear program and found in transit within a state’s territory. The resolution calls on states to “remain vigilant” in monitoring sanctioned individuals and entities.
            Resolution 2094 (March 7, 2013). Passed in response to North Korea’s third nuclear test in February 2013, Resolution 2094 condemns the test, expands and strengthens existing sanctions, and gives states broader rights to inspect, detain, and destroy North Korean cargo suspected of including banned materials. The resolution especially targets Pyongyang’s access to hard currency by denying “bulk” cash transfers into North Korea and calling for sanctions on any assets or bank accounts tied to Pyongyang’s nuclear program. It sets further limits on imports of luxury goods to target elites in North Korea and freezes the assets of and issues travel bans on additional individuals and entities tied to the nuclear program.—ALEXANDRA SCHMITT


              North Korean Response

              The day after the sanctions were adopted, the state-run Korean Central News Agency reported a North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesperson as saying that Pyongyang viewed the sanctions as a “hostile act” that is “creating [a] vicious cycle of tension.”

              The ministry also announced that the 1953 Armistice Agreement, which ended hostilities in the Korean War, would be invalid as of March 11 and reiterated its earlier statement that the joint denuclearization declaration it signed with South Korea in 1992 was void. Under the terms of the joint declaration, both countries agreed not to test, produce, receive, store, deploy, or use nuclear weapons.

              Another former U.S. special envoy to North Korea, Joseph DeTrani, said on March 21 that North Korea’s rhetoric and actions were no longer “normal” and that the situation “needs to be defused quickly.”

              Speaking at a March 21 event at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, DeTrani, who also served as director of the National Counterproliferation Center and now is president of the Intelligence and National Security Alliance, said that Pyongyang’s actions over the past month have been an attempt to “lock in its nuclear program” so that “negotiations become nonproliferation discussions, not disarmament discussions,” that therefore focus on preventing North Korea from spreading its weapons or technology to others.

              U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice reiterated the U.S. policy of denuclearization in a March 7 statement, saying that the “entire world stands united” behind this goal.

              Bosworth, who is dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, said in his testimony that a solution to North Korea’s nuclear program will come only by addressing “broader considerations of a peace treaty to replace the armistice,” diplomatic relations, economic aid, and energy assistance.

              China’s Role

              DeTrani said China could play an important role in defusing the building tension and in reinstituting talks with North Korea, noting that Beijing played an integral role in bringing Pyongyang into the six-party talks in 2003.

              Those talks, which also include Japan, Russia, South Korea, and the United States, broke down in 2009 when Pyongyang declared it would no longer participate. In 2005 the talks resulted in an agreement under which North Korea in 2007 dismantled its heavy-water reactor, which had produced enough weapons-grade plutonium for an estimated four to eight warheads.

              Bosworth said he was not optimistic about relying on China. Beijing faces an “essential conundrum” because China does not want a nuclear-armed North Korea but is concerned that too much pressure may cause the regime to collapse, he said.

              Officials argue that China needs to play a stronger role in implementing existing sanctions. Davies said in his testimony that the United States takes Chinese officials “at their word” that sanctions are being enforced but that Washington will “continue to engage” with Beijing to “ensure that the Chinese do the maximum amount they can” in this area.

              Intercepted Cargo

              On March 18, Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga confirmed reports from last November that Japan had intercepted a ship from North Korea carrying aluminum rods that Pyongyang is banned from exporting because they are suitable for building centrifuges. (See ACT, December 2012.)

              The cargo was shipped through China last August on a Singapore-flagged ship, according to the statement. Suga did not confirm the final destination of the cargo. Newspapers, however, quoted officials in November as saying it was bound for Myanmar. In a Nov. 27 letter, U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), who left office in January, asked Myanmar President Thein Sein to explain the shipment. The Myanmar government said that the materials were being shipped to a private company, rather than the state.

              Former officials testifying at the March 7 hearing agreed that North Korea’s illicit networks pose a significant proliferation concern. Robert Joseph, former undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, told the committee that North Korea is a “serial proliferator” and “will sell what it has” to states and subnational groups. DeTrani called these proliferation concerns a central issue and said China is aware of them.

              The UN Security Council on March 7 unanimously adopted a resolution imposing new sanctions on North Korea in response to Pyongyang’s third nuclear test.

              White House Fills Expanded WMD Post

              Tom Z. Collina

              Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall, the top National Security Council (NSC) adviser on European affairs, has been named to a new NSC position as coordinator for defense policy, weapons of mass destruction (WMD), and arms control, the White House announced March 19.

              Sherwood-Randall takes over the WMD and arms control portfolio previously held by Gary Samore, who now is executive director of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University. The newly created NSC position adds defense policy to the old portfolio in an effort to improve coordination on related issues, according to White House officials cited in a March 19 report in The Cable.

              President Barack Obama “will look to [Sherwood-Randall] to bring significant energy and capability to his second term as we pursue the ambitious goals he set forth in his Prague speech in 2009,” national security adviser Tom Donilon said in the announcement. In that speech, Obama laid out a broad nuclear policy covering arms reductions, nonproliferation, nuclear security, and other issues.

              Sherwood-Randall will work with Lt. Col. Ron Clark, acting senior director for defense policy and strategy; Laura Holgate, senior director for WMD terrorism and threat reduction; and Lynn Rusten, senior director for arms control and nonproliferation, The Cable said.

              During the Clinton administration, Sherwood-Randall served as deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russia, Ukraine, and Eurasia, where she played a role in the denuclearization of Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine after those countries inherited nuclear weapons with the dissolution of the Soviet Union. She previously served as chief foreign affairs and defense policy adviser to Vice President Joe Biden when he was a U.S. senator.

              Sherwood-Randall will take up her new post April 8, the White House said.

              Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall, the top National Security Council (NSC) adviser on European affairs, has been named to a new NSC position as coordinator for defense policy, weapons of mass destruction (WMD), and arms control, the White House announced March 19.

              Brazil Moves Toward Nuclear Submarine

              Serena Kelleher-Vergantini

              Brazil is planning to develop a nuclear-powered submarine by 2023, the country’s Ministry of Defense said Feb. 28. The statement came a day before a ceremony in the state of Rio de Janeiro marking the inauguration of a key facility for building submarines.

              The submarine-building effort is part of a larger Brazilian-French collaboration initiated in 2008, under which France is to provide Brazil with the technology required to build four diesel-electric submarines and a nuclear-powered one. The Brazilian navy has said the nuclear technology for the submarine reactor will be developed indigenously.

              According to the navy, the development of a land-based prototype submarine reactor is underway and is scheduled to be completed by 2014. Brazil has the uranium-enrichment technology that is needed for producing nuclear fuel. It is unclear whether Brazil intends to use low-enriched uranium (LEU) or highly enriched uranium (HEU) in the nuclear submarine reactor. Uranium with an enrichment level of at least 20 percent is considered HEU.

              Independent experts have reported that Brazilian officials say they currently are planning to use LEU, given that it is easier and less expensive to acquire, but do not want to restrict their fuel options and might decide to use HEU in the future. Brazilian officials did not respond by press time to requests for comment.

              Only China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States currently possess nuclear-powered submarines. Those are the five countries that the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) recognizes as nuclear-weapon states. Brazil is party to the treaty as a non-nuclear-weapon state. India, an NPT nonparty, has developed a nuclear-powered submarine and is expected to begin sea trials this year.

              Brazil is planning to develop a nuclear-powered submarine by 2023, the country’s Ministry of Defense said Feb. 28. The statement came a day before a ceremony in the state of Rio de Janeiro marking the inauguration of a key facility for building submarines.

              Amano Endorsed for Second IAEA Term

              Kelsey Davenport

              The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Board of Governors on March 6 endorsed Yukiya Amano to serve a second four-year term as the agency’s director-general.

              The 35-member board voted by acclamation to renew Amano’s term, according to a statement by John Barrett of Canada, the board chairman. The IAEA’s 159 member states now must formally confirm the board’s decision at the agency’s General Conference in September. Amano’s new term will begin in December.

              Amano did not face any competition for the post. That contrasts with 2009, when he needed five rounds of balloting to secure the necessary two-thirds of the board’s votes. At the time, several countries expressed concern that Amano, then Japan’s representative to the board, was too close to the United States and would not be an independent director-general. (See ACT, May 2009.)

              In a March 6 press conference following the board meeting, Amano said he was “deeply grateful” for the trust of the board members.

              Meanwhile, Tero Varjoranta of Finland has been tapped to succeed Herman Nackaerts as the agency’s top safeguards official in October, the Finnish government said in a March 4 press release. Nackaerts, who is retiring, has led the agency’s negotiations with Iran over its controversial nuclear activities.

              The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Board of Governors on March 6 endorsed Yukiya Amano to serve a second four-year term as the agency’s director-general.

              New Spending Law Raises Nuclear Funding

              Marcus Taylor

              Funding for the Energy Department’s nuclear weapons programs received a boost in a bill that Congress approved March 21 to cover the remainder of fiscal year 2013.

              The increase for those programs, which are overseen by the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), a semiautonomous agency within the Energy Department, is an exception in legislation that generally kept funding for federal agencies at fiscal year 2012 levels. President Barack Obama signed the bill into law March 26.

              The spending measure provides $7.6 billion for NNSA weapons programs. That figure, which is $363 million more than Congress appropriated in its legislation for fiscal year 2012, is what the Obama administration sought in its fiscal year 2013 budget request for those programs.

              Fiscal year 2013 began last Oct. 1. Until now, Congress has funded federal agencies through an interim measure that expired March 27.

              The NNSA programs are subject to the automatic spending cuts, known as sequestration, imposed by the Budget Control Act of 2011. Those cuts would reduce funding for NNSA weapons activities by 7.8 percent—$600 million of the $7.6 billion—for fiscal year 2013.

              In Feb. 14 testimony to the House Appropriations Energy and Water Development Subcommittee, acting NNSA Administrator Neile Miller said the largest impacts of the automatic cuts could be in the spending category called Directed Stockpile Work, which includes projects to extend the functional life of nuclear warheads placed on submarine-launched ballistic missiles, intercontinental ballistic missiles, heavy bombers, and fighter jets. One likely impact of the sequestration is a delay in the life extension program for the B61, a nuclear bomb, Miller said.

              Funding for the Energy Department’s nuclear weapons programs received a boost in a bill that Congress approved March 21 to cover the remainder of fiscal year 2013.

              Pentagon Shifts Gears on Missile Defense

              Tom Z. Collina

              Removing a major roadblock to Russian support for another round of nuclear arms reductions, the Department of Defense last month effectively canceled the fourth phase of its plans to deploy missile interceptors in Europe over the next decade.

              At a March 15 press conference, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said that, under a “restructuring” of the European program, the Pentagon would redirect funding to field an additional 14 ground-based interceptor (GBI) missiles in Alaska by 2017 to address rising nuclear and missile threats from North Korea.

              Citing the U.S. need to “stay ahead” of North Korea’s “irresponsible and reckless provocations,” including a satellite launch last December, a nuclear test in February, and the development of “what appears to be a road-mobile ICBM,” or intercontinental ballistic missile, Hagel said the United States would increase the number of missile interceptors at Fort Greely, Alaska, from 30 to 44; deploy a second X-band radar in Japan, which had been previously announced; conduct environmental studies for a potential additional interceptor site in the United States, as directed by Congress; and cancel the last of the four phases of the European Phased Adaptive Approach missile defense system, which would have fielded interceptors in Poland to shoot down any future long-range missiles launched from Iran.

              Congressional Republicans, who have been critical of the Obama administration’s missile defense policies, generally praised the announcement. Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), the ranking member of the Foreign Relations Committee, told Fox News on March 17 that he “applaud[s] the efforts,” but added he would support a new missile defense site on the East Coast and said he had concerns about canceling the fourth phase of the planned European deployment. At the same time, he said, “I don’t think that threat is imminent—I don’t think [North Korea has] the delivery mechanisms that are necessary to really harm us.”

              A group of 19 House Republicans sent a March 19 letter to Hagel saying the additional interceptors in Alaska are “welcome and long overdue” but that the lawmakers were “concerned about the decision to terminate” the fourth phase. They called on Hagel to include $250 million in the fiscal year 2014 budget for 20 interceptors at a new East Coast site.

              Russian Reaction

              Moscow had seen the U.S. intention to deploy the Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) IIB in Poland as a potential threat to its ICBMs based in western Russia. U.S. President Barack Obama announced in February that he would resume efforts to seek additional reductions in nuclear stockpiles with Russia, but Moscow said that its concerns about U.S. missile defense plans had to be resolved first. (See ACT, March 2013.)

              Rose Gottemoeller, acting undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, said March 20 in prepared remarks in Geneva that the United States now is “exploring what a future [nuclear arms control] agreement with Russia might look like.” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov met with U.S. officials in Geneva on March 18 and 19 for talks on issues that included the March 15 missile defense announcement, according to the Russian Foreign Ministry.

              Russian officials have so far taken a wait-and-see approach to the Pentagon’s new plans. “There is no unequivocal answer yet to the question of what consequences all this can have for our security,” Ryabkov told reporters March 21 in Russia. “The causes for concern have not been removed, but dialogue is needed—it is in our interest and we welcome the fact that the American side also, it appears, wants to continue this dialogue.”

              Moscow has been seeking a legally binding commitment that the United States would not use interceptors based in Europe to target Russia’s ICBMs. U.S. national security adviser Tom Donilon reportedly will visit Moscow April 15 to discuss missile defense with senior Russian officials, and Hagel is expected to travel to Moscow in late May to continue discussions.

              Troubled Development

              Administration officials said the decision to cancel the fourth phase of the European deployment was not based on Russian opposition, but on the fact that deployment of the SM-3 IIB interceptor had been delayed from 2020 to at least 2022 due to congressional funding cuts. Hagel said that, by shifting resources “from this lagging program” to the additional GBIs missiles, “we will be able to add protection against missiles from Iran sooner.”

              Iran does not yet have long-range missiles that can reach the United States; the U.S. intelligence community has said Tehran could develop this capability by 2015 with significant foreign assistance, although a report last December from the Congressional Research Service said Tehran’s ability to meet that target date “is increasingly uncertain,” in part because Iran is not receiving sufficient help from China and Russia.

              The SM-3 IIB, which exists only on paper and, with Hagel’s decision, has been downgraded to a technology development program, has been facing a number of problems. A study released in February by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that the SM-3 IIB might not be effective without changes to its operational plan, which in turn could lead to significant safety risks, cost increases, and schedule delays. Last September, a major technical report by a National Academy of Sciences (NAS) panel recommended canceling the fourth phase of the planned missile interceptor deployment because it was not the most effective way to defend the United States against potential Iranian missile strikes. (See ACT, October 2012.)

              At the press conference, Hagel said the Pentagon would continue the other phases of its European plan, which include currently deployed, shorter-range SM-3 interceptors on Aegis-equipped Navy ships in the Mediterranean Sea and future land-based deployments in Romania in 2015 and Poland in 2018.

              Walter Slocombe, a former undersecretary of defense for policy who co-chaired the NAS study, said in a March 18 interview that dropping the fourth phase was “a good step” because newly developed interceptors deployed on the East Coast could counter future Iranian ICBM launches more effectively than the SM-3 IIB could from Europe.

              Slocombe questioned the administration’s decision to put additional interceptors in Alaska, saying it was “not a very good thing to do in the long run, since it’s the same old stuff in the same old place.” The NAS panel was sharply critical of the current 30-interceptor system deployed on the West Coast, which it described as “fragile” and ineffective against “any but the most primitive attacks.” The system has not had a successful intercept test since 2008, missing twice in 2010.

              Fly Before You Buy

              Acknowledging the GBI system’s shortcomings, Hagel said that he would not deploy the additional 14 interceptors, which will cost about $1 billion, “until we are sure that we have the complete confidence that we will need.” Speaking at the same press briefing, James Miller, the undersecretary of defense for policy, said the Pentagon would “stick with our fly-before-you-buy approach.” Noting that the GBI missile’s kill vehicle, called the Capability Enhancement-II (CE-II), has had “a couple of test failures,” Miller said the Pentagon would conduct an intercept test this year. A successful nonintercept test was conducted in January.

              The CE-II kill vehicle, which is the object that is supposed to collide with an incoming warhead in space, was fielded in 2008 and is currently deployed on 10 of the 30 GBI missiles in Alaska and California, according to a March 2011 GAO report. The other 20 GBI missiles are armed with CE-I kill vehicles, which were fielded from 2004 to 2007 and still are in place today. But the CE-II was not used in an intercept test until January and December 2010, and it failed both times. As a result, in 2011 the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency (MDA) suspended additional CE-II deployments and said that fielded GBI missiles armed with CE-IIs would not be considered operational until a successful intercept test. The MDA later found a flaw in the guidance system of the Raytheon-made CE-II.

              The Pentagon is going to conduct flight tests of the CE-I this summer and “hopefully flight-test the CE-II after we build it this fall,” Adm. James Winnefeld, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said at the March 15 briefing. Miller said that if the modified CE-II is successful, the Pentagon would “make changes to those CE-IIs that are currently in place, and then the new ground-based interceptors would also be [outfitted with] CE-IIs.”

              Even if the next intercept tests are successful against simple, intermediate-range targets, they are not expected to test the system’s effectiveness against ICBM threats or countermeasures such as decoys. The GAO has said that the capability of the two kill vehicles against decoys “has not been validated” and that tests against ICBMs will not occur until 2015 or later.

              China, which is North Korea’s main ally and has repeatedly criticized the U.S. missile defense program as a threat to strategic stability, did not welcome Hagel’s announcement. “Strengthening anti-missile deployments and military alliances can only deepen antagonism and will be of no help to solving problems,” Hong Lei, a spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, told reporters in Beijing on March 18.

              Removing a major roadblock to Russian support for another round of nuclear arms reductions, the Department of Defense last month effectively canceled the fourth phase of its plans to deploy missile interceptors in Europe over the next decade.

              Lapse of U.S.-South Korea Pact Mulled

              Daniel Horner

              With talks on renewal of a U.S.-South Korean agreement for civilian nuclear cooperation still stalled, observers are raising the possibility that the pact could lapse.

              The 1974 agreement expires next year, but because of the congressional review process required under U.S. law, analysts say the U.S. and South Korean governments would need to conclude their negotiations in the next several months. The two sides are at an impasse over Seoul’s long-term plans for enriching uranium and treating spent fuel.

              South Korea is developing a spent fuel treatment process known as pyroprocessing, which it says is more proliferation resistant than conventional reprocessing. The United States has publicly disagreed with that assessment. In the most strongly worded instance, a State Department official cited the Energy Department as saying that “pyroprocessing is reprocessing. Period. Full stop.” (See ACT, April 2011.)

              Pyroprocessing has long been a stumbling block between the two countries; the enrichment issue has emerged more recently.

              Last year, some observers said they hoped to see progress after the U.S. elections in November and the South Korean elections in December. But there appears to be no indication of that.

              A recent development that may further complicate the process of putting a new agreement in place is the support that some South Koreans are expressing for obtaining nuclear weapons, apparently spurred by North Korea’s Feb. 12 nuclear test. (See ACT, March 2013.) At a March 13 event at the Korea Economic Institute of America, Fred McGoldrick, a consultant and former State Department official whose responsibilities included negotiating nuclear cooperation agreements, and Duyeon Kim of the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation said such a move is not a sensible or realistic option for South Korea. Nevertheless, McGoldrick said, the South Korean calls for a nuclear weapon are “not going to help” when the cooperation agreement is submitted to Congress.

              At the March 13 event, McGoldrick and Kim presented a paper in which they said that a “lengthy” lapse in the agreement “could have adverse economic and political consequences,” such as a South Korean loss of confidence in the United States as a “reliable supplier.” On the other hand, they said that “the economic consequences of a short-term lapse are not likely to be significant.”

              At the event, McGoldrick recalled that the U.S. agreement with the European Atomic Energy Community lapsed for “a few months” in 1995 “and the world did not end.”

              The McGoldrick-Kim paper lays out several options that South Korea and the United States could pursue if they do not resolve their differences in the next several months.

              Striking a similar note, a Congressional Research Service report completed in late January said that reconciling the “strongly differing views” between the two countries would be “challenging.” That report also provided a list of possible interim measures.

              The U.S.-South Korean talks are taking place against the backdrop of a long-running policy review within the U.S. government of the terms it will require in agreements with its potential nuclear trading partners. The key question in the review is how hard Washington should press these countries to forswear enrichment and reprocessing activities.

              Some nonproliferation advocates on Capitol Hill and elsewhere have argued that the United States should require those countries to renounce enrichment and reprocessing, as the United Arab Emirates did in its 2009 cooperation agreement. In August 2010, a State Department spokesman referred to that agreement and the policy it embodied as the “gold standard.”

              According to several sources, however, the policy review is not holding up the talks with South Korea because the United States would not ask Seoul to accept whatever restrictions the policy may require.

              A slide that McGoldrick and Kim presented at the March 13 event summarized the policy discussions by saying, “U.S. administration position unclear on gold standard, but will not require of [South Korea].”

              In a subsequent e-mail exchange with Arms Control Today, McGoldrick said the policy likely would call for Washington to ask prospective nuclear cooperation partners to agree not to pursue enrichment and reprocessing programs. If they refused, the United States would decide whether to proceed with the negotiations, he said.

              The agreements with China and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), like the one with South Korea, would not be subject to that policy, he said. In separate interviews in recent weeks, two nuclear industry officials gave similar accounts of the evolving policy.

              In a brief March 13 interview, a U.S. official familiar with the issue declined to provide details of the policy review, but appeared to confirm that the United States would not ask South Korea to give up enrichment and reprocessing. “Everyone understands the gold standard is a nonstarter” in the case of South Korea, he said.

              With talks on renewal of a U.S.-South Korean agreement for civilian nuclear cooperation still stalled, observers are raising the possibility that the pact could lapse.

              UN to Probe Syria Chemical Arms Claims

              Daniel Horner

              Responding to a request from the Syrian government, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is preparing to conduct an investigation into claims of chemical weapons use in Syria.

              The government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad made the request after a March 19 incident in which about 25 people reportedly were killed and dozens more injured in the village of Khan al-Assal, near Aleppo. The Assad regime claims that Syrian opposition forces used chemical weapons in the fighting there.

              In a March 21 press conference at the United Nations, Ban said that, in undertaking the investigation, he would insist on “unfettered access.” The two-year-old uprising in Syria has prompted widespread concern that Assad would use Syria’s reportedly large stockpile of chemical weapons against the rebels or transfer control of them to other states or to subnational groups. (See ACT, September 2012.)

              Syrian opposition forces claim the Khan al-Assal attack was launched by the Assad regime. France and the United Kingdom have asked Ban to broaden his investigation to cover other sites where the rebels have said the Assad regime used chemical weapons. In announcing his acceptance of the Syrian request, Ban said, “I am, of course, aware that there are other allegations of similar cases involving the reported use of chemical weapons.”

              Although Ban and his aides have indicated that the probe would not necessarily be restricted to responding to the Syrian government’s request, they have said it will be circumscribed. At a March 27 briefing, Ban spokesman Martin Nesirky said the goal is to determine “whether chemical weapons were used, and not by whom.” It is not “a criminal investigation” or an attempt “to apportion responsibility or blame,” he said.

              In his March 21 remarks, Ban said he would carry out the probe in conjunction with the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and the World Health Organization. He later named Swedish scientist Åke Sellström to head the team. Sellström was an adviser to two UN bodies that carried out inspections in Iraq.

              In a March 26 interview with UN Radio, Sellström said the investigation staff would come from international organizations. In a March 28 e-mail to Arms Control Today, OPCW spokesman Michael Luhan said that “[m]ost or all of the inspectors” will be from the OPCW. He declined to provide further details.

              In the radio interview, Sellström indicated the probe would start in early April.

              At the March 21 press conference, Ban cited a 1987 UN General Assembly resolution that gives the secretary-general the authority to carry out such investigations. In a March 28 interview, Ralf Trapp, a former senior OPCW official who now is a consultant on biological and chemical weapons issues, said the authority has been applied in the past but that Ban’s investigation would be the first since the 1997 entry into force of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), which established the OPCW.

              Language in the CWC and in a 2000 agreement between the UN and the OPCW establishes the terms for cooperation between the two organizations.

              Syria is not a party to the CWC.

              The UN probe has the “unequivocal support” of the OPCW Executive Council, the council chair, Bhaswati Mukherjee of India, said in a statement issued after a March 27 meeting in The Hague.

              The announcement of plans for the Syria investigation comes just weeks before the CWC parties are scheduled to hold their review conference April 8-19 in The Hague. It is not clear what impact the investigation request or the larger question of chemical weapons use in Syria is going to have on the conference, for which the OPCW and the treaty parties have been preparing for months. The conference is held once every five years.

              Trapp said the state of affairs in Syria can be expected to figure in discussions of the need to achieve universality for the treaty. In addition to Syria, seven countries—Angola, Egypt, Israel, Myanmar, North Korea, Somalia, and South Sudan—are not parties to the CWC.

              The conference participants also might discuss Syria in the context of determining the degree of readiness the OPCW should maintain for investigations into alleged chemical weapons use and the provision of assistance to the victims of chemical attacks, Trapp said.

              Responding to a request from the Syrian government, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is preparing to conduct an investigation into claims of chemical weapons use in Syria.

              Impacts of Nuclear Weapons Use Discussed

              Alexandra Schmitt

              The international community cannot adequately prepare for the impact of nuclear weapons use of any scale, 127 countries concluded at a two-day conference last month in Oslo on the humanitarian and economic impacts of nuclear weapons.

              The concluding message of nearly every presentation was that any use of a nuclear weapon would devastate human populations on a massive scale and decimate the economy and environment. Most states, including Brazil, Germany, India, and Turkey, said that eliminating nuclear weapons was the only way to prevent their use.

              In addition to the 127 countries, participants included international organizations such as the United Nations, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), and the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, as well as representatives from civil society.

              The five countries that the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) recognizes as nuclear-weapon states—China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States—did not attend the meeting. India and Pakistan, nuclear-armed states that are not NPT parties, did participate in the conference.

              Representatives of government and civil society gave presentations on the immediate impacts on human life of using nuclear weapons. Rashid Khalikov, director of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Geneva, warned of the wider and longer-term consequences of nuclear weapons use on the international economy, global development, and the environment. Experts from nongovernmental organizations, including Ira Helfand, co-president of the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, stressed the impossibility of preparing an effective international or state response to the humanitarian disasters of a nuclear attack.

              Speakers cited evidence from the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the nuclear power plant disasters at Chernobyl and Fukushima, and Soviet nuclear weapons tests at the Semipalatinsk site in Kazakhstan to illustrate the impacts of a nuclear detonation. A survivor of the Nagasaki bombing gave testimony on the devastating consequences of an atomic bomb explosion.

              An effective response to a nuclear attack and assistance to survivors are “not presently available and not possible at the international level,” nor could such a response ever be developed, the ICRC said in its presentation. Representatives from the UN Development Programme concurred, warning that the only solution is to “make sure that a detonation of a nuclear weapon never happens.”

              In statements at the Conference on Disarmament (CD) in Geneva on March 5, the second day of the Oslo meeting, the five NPT nuclear-weapon states called the gathering in Norway a distraction from the ongoing work at the CD and an upcoming preparatory meeting for the 2015 NPT Review Conference. The preparatory meeting is scheduled to run from April 22 to May 3 in Geneva.

              Joanne Adamson, British permanent representative to the CD, expressed concern that the Oslo event would “divert attention and discussion away from what has proven to be the most effective means of reducing nuclear dangers—a practical, step-by-step approach that includes all those who have nuclear weapons.” She argued that banning nuclear weapons, as some countries at the meeting proposed, is not “the right way to move us closer to the complete elimination of nuclear weapons.”

              Laura Kennedy, U.S. ambassador to the CD, said that the decision not to attend the Oslo meeting was made in consultation with the other NPT nuclear-weapon states. In their statements, China, France, and Russia gave similar reasons for not attending.

              Opportunity for Discussion

              Referring to criticisms such as those expressed in the March 5 statements at the CD, Norwegian Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide said the Oslo conference was a way to have a focused discussion of the humanitarian impacts of a nuclear attack. Eide cited the 2010 NPT Review Conference’s final document, which expressed the parties’ “deep concern at the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons.”

              In his opening statement, Eide, who chaired the Oslo meeting, said the gathering was “not intended to be a substitute for any of the established arenas,” apparently referring to forums such as the CD, but was rather “an opportunity to establish a sound understanding” of the 2010 document’s language on nuclear weapons use.

              Mexico offered to host a follow-up meeting on the humanitarian impacts, but no date was set.

              The international community cannot adequately prepare for the impact of nuclear weapons use of any scale, 127 countries concluded at a two-day conference last month in Oslo on the humanitarian and economic impacts of nuclear weapons.


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