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"Though we have acheived progress, our work is not over. That is why I support the mission of the Arms Control Association. It is, quite simply, the most effective and important organization working in the field today." 

– Larry Weiler
Former U.S.-Russian arms control negotiator
August 7, 2018
June 2013
Edition Date: 
Tuesday, June 4, 2013
Cover Image: 

Pentagon Sees China Progressing on SLBM

Marcus Taylor and Eric Tamerlani

China is moving closer to fielding a new submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) capable of striking the United States, according to a new Defense Department report on China’s military capabilities.

Released May 6, the Pentagon report says that Beijing’s newest SLBM, the Julang-2 (JL-2), is poised “to reach initial operational capability in 2013.” Once deployed on Beijing’s Jin-class ballistic missile submarine, the JL-2 “will give the PLA [People’s Liberation Army] Navy its first credible sea-based nuclear deterrent,” the report says.

The Defense Department is required by law to submit an annual report to Congress on China’s military capabilities and force modernization.

The 2013 report indicates China’s progress in upgrading certain elements of its nuclear forces. In the 2011 version of the report, the Defense Department described the operational status of the first-generation JL-1 SLBM as “questionable,” and it is widely believed that the Xia-class submarine on which that missile is carried has never been deployed on a strategic patrol outside Chinese regional waters. Independent analysts from China have described the JL-1 and the Xia-class submarine as a “failure,” according to a report by the Union of Concerned Scientists.

China conducted a successful test of the JL-2 on Aug. 16, 2012.

Beijing has three operational Jin-class submarines and another two under construction in different stages of completion. The Jin-class submarines are expected to carry 12 JL-2 SLBMs each, according to an April report by the Congressional Research Service (CRS) on Chinese naval modernization. The submarines are based on Hainan Island in the South China Sea and will be capable of conducting deterrence patrols from that base, according to the Defense Department report.

Military Role Seen in Chinese Cyberattacks

China’s military and government are directly behind some of the intrusions into many of the computer systems around the world, including the U.S. government’s, according to the most recent edition of an annual report to Congress by the Defense Department.

The May 2013 report marks the first time that the Pentagon has linked the Chinese government and military to the thousands of cyberattacks against the United States. According to the report, these attacks are focused on extracting information and giving Chinese military planners “a picture of U.S. network defense networks, logistics, and related military capabilities that could be exploited during a crisis.”

Last year’s report concluded that many of the computer intrusions around the world “originated within China” and that “China’s persistent cyber intrusions indicates the likelihood” that Beijing is using cybernetwork operations to “collect strategic intelligence.” But it did not specifically state that the government or military were responsible.

The 2013 report says China’s cyberwarfare capabilities could help the Chinese military in several areas. The intrusions could be used to collect data to constrain or slow an adversary’s response time during conflict by targeting communications, logistics, and commercial networks and could be used in conjunction with traditional warfare.

In February, the private computer security firm Mandiant released a report that said a particular unit of China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA), Unit 61398, was responsible for many of the cyber intrusions and data thefts in U.S. government agencies and private companies. The unclassified version of the 2013 Pentagon report did not go as far as naming a specific PLA unit.—TIMOTHY FARNSWORTH

    That report says that China possesses 50 to 75 land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). Beijing’s ICBMs are believed to be armed with a single nuclear warhead each.

    The 2013 report says China has approximately 1,000 short-range ballistic missiles opposite Taiwan, but it does not estimate how many may be nuclear tipped. Independent estimates put China’s total nuclear force at about 240 warheads of all types, of which 180 are considered to be nondeployed, or in reserve.

    In the report, the Defense Department says it expects the JL-2 to have a range of 7,400 kilometers. Given the range of the JL-2, the Jin-class submarine could launch an attack reaching targets in Alaska from Chinese waters, targets in the western half of the U.S. mainland from “mid-ocean locations west of Hawaii,” and “targets in all 50 states from mid-ocean locations east of Hawaii,” the CRS report says.

    However, according to that report, the Jin-class submarines produce a great deal of noise. This makes them “relatively easy” for the U.S. Navy to detect and will make deployment away from Chinese-protected waters a risky endeavor, possibly constraining Beijing’s ability to threaten the U.S. mainland, the CRS report says.

    The Defense Department report says that once Beijing begins patrols with ballistic missile submarines, the PLA will have to “implement more sophisticated command and control systems and processes that safeguard the integrity of nuclear release authority.”

    In a May 13 e-mail to Arms Control Today, Hans Kristensen, director of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists, said it is unlikely that control of the nuclear warheads will be handed over to the PLA Navy during peacetime, meaning that the Jin-class submarines would be fitted with nuclear warheads only during a crisis, not during routine patrols. The mating of the JL-2 missile and warhead during peacetime would be a “significant change in Chinese nuclear policy” and remains unlikely, Kristensen said.

    According to the Pentagon report, China is expected to begin development of a third generation of ballistic missile submarines over the next decade.

    The report also says that China is developing a “new generation of mobile missiles, with warheads consisting of MIRVs [multiple independently targeted re-entry vehicles] and penetration aids.” Penetration aids are designed to increase the likelihood that a ballistic missile can penetrate defense systems by obscuring the identity of the real nuclear warhead. The MIRVs and penetration aids are intended to counter U.S. and, to a certain extent, Russian precision strike capabilities and improvements in ballistic missile defense technology, according to the report.

    Beijing is performing research on advanced penetration aids such as maneuverable re-entry vehicles, decoys, thermal shielding, and radar jammers, according to the Pentagon report. The report says these efforts, combined with recent combat simulation exercises focusing on ICBM maneuverability and concealment, show an increased focus on the survivability of Chinese nuclear forces. According to the report, “[T]hese technologies and training enhancements strengthen China’s nuclear force and enhance its strategic strike capabilities.”

    China has taken several steps to develop an indigenous ballistic missile defense system, including the flight test of a land-based missile interceptor Jan. 28. (See ACT, March 2013.) According to the report, Beijing is researching and developing a “missile defense umbrella” to intercept ballistic missiles during the midcourse phase—a technique used by the U.S. Ground-Based Midcourse Defense—utilizing a so-called kill vehicle and a kinetic “hit-to-kill” warhead.

    A recent Defense Department report says that China is nearing completion of its latest submarine-launched ballistic missile, which may soon provide Beijing with a functional sea-based nuclear deterrent

    Park Lays Out Korean Trust-Building Plan

    Kelsey Davenport

    South Korean President Park Geun-hye last month laid out a process for building trust on the Korean peninsula, an approach she said she hopes will lay the groundwork for “durable peace” and eventually unification.

    In a May 8 address to a joint session of the U.S. Congress, Park said South Korea would never accept a nuclear-armed North Korea and that provocations, like Pyongyang’s Feb. 13 nuclear test, would be “met decisively” but that humanitarian aid will not be linked to the political situation. Seoul and Pyongyang gradually would develop trust “through exchange [and] cooperation,” she said.

    Park’s approach has three parts, according to Victor Cha, a former deputy head of the U.S. delegation to the negotiations with North Korea on its nuclear program: it begins with keeping promises, then builds a process, and finally creates institutions between the two sides. At a May 17 event at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Cha cited several impediments to this process, which he labeled “trustpolitik.” He said that emotion has affected decision-making on both sides and that it could be difficult for South Korea to signal good intentions when many confidence-building measures have failed in the past.

    During her trip to Washington, Park also called for an international peace park inside the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea. Cha suggested this could be an attempt by Park to signal her good intentions to North Korea. Pyongyang’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said May 9 that it is not possible to build a peace park in the demilitarized zone while the two countries remain at war. The two countries never have signed a peace treaty ending the Korean War.

    Park emphasized the importance of the regional parties speaking “with one voice” on North Korea and sending a “clear and consistent message.”

    In a joint press conference with Park on May 7, U.S. President Barack Obama said that the United States and South Korea would engage with North Korea diplomatically and, “over time, build trust” but that Pyongyang must first take “meaningful steps” to abide by its international commitments, particularly giving up its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

    The Obama administration has consistently stressed that North Korea must recommit to denuclearization for talks to begin. (See ACT, May 2013.)

    Although bellicose rhetoric out of North Korea has decreased over the past several months, Pyongyang remains insistent that it will not commit to giving up its nuclear arsenal to begin talks.

    More dramatically, Pyongyang tested six short-range ballistic missiles May 18-20 in what the KCNA said May 21 was part of “a regular military exercise.” South Korea denounced the action as “provocative.” A spokesman for the South Korean Defense Ministry said at a May 21 press briefing that the launches could be a violation of UN Security Council resolutions, which prohibit missile launches.

    In a May 20 press briefing, U.S. State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell said he was not aware of the missile launches violating any UN Security Council resolutions but that the United States urged North Korea to “exercise restraint.”

    North Korea has several types of short-range ballistic missiles, which have a range of less than 1,000 kilometers. Pyongyang regularly tests these missiles.

    North Korea had moved several Musudan intermediate-range ballistic missiles to one of its test sites, but appears to have moved the missiles to another location.

    In a visit to Washington, South Korea’s president laid out a process for building trust on the Korean peninsula, an approach she said she hoped would be a step toward unification.

    Syria Issue Roils CWC Review Conference

    Daniel Horner and Oliver Meier

    Differences over language addressing the possible use of chemical weapons in Syria sharply divided the recent review conference of states-parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), according to official statements at the conference and interviews with key participants and observers in recent weeks. Some diplomats, speaking on background, described the conference as being on the verge of failing to reach agreement on a final document over the differences on how to deal with that subject.

    In spite of the disagreement on Syria and other issues, most notably on possible restrictions on chemical agents known as incapacitants, the conference participants praised the results of the April 8-19 meeting in The Hague. In a May 23 interview in Washington, Ahmet Üzümcü, the director-general of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), called the meeting, which 122 of the treaty’s 188 parties attended, “very productive” and its final document a “very positive outcome.” The OPCW is the body charged with implementing the CWC.

    In the final document, the parties “reiterated their deep concern” that chemical weapons may have been used in Syria and “underlined that the use of chemical weapons by anyone under any circumstances would be reprehensible and completely contrary to the legal norms and standards of the international community.”

    The parties also “expressed their support for the close cooperation” between the UN secretary-general and the director-general of the OPCW to investigate alleged instances of chemical weapons use.

    Differing Views

    UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon set the stage for conference discussions on the use of chemical weapons on Syria in his opening remarks April 8. Ban urged the international community to act and said that “the use of chemical weapons by any side under any circumstances would constitute an outrageous crime with dire consequences, and a crime against humanity.”

    On March 21, in response to a request by the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Ban announced he was launching a UN investigation on the alleged use of chemical weapons by rebels, but France and the United Kingdom asked him also to look into the possible use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government. (See ACT, April 2013.) Ban assembled a team of experts and inspectors from the OPCW and the World Health Organization to go to Syria to investigate the competing claims of chemical weapons use in that country.

    But the team has not been able to enter Syria, as Ban and Assad have not agreed on the terms of the proposed investigation. Syria is one of eight states that is not a party to the CWC.

    At the review conference, the opening statement of Russia, a main ally of Syria, made clear Moscow’s reservations about the UN probe and OPCW involvement. G.V. Kalamanov, deputy minister of industry and trade, said April 9 that Russia welcomed the investigation into alleged use of chemical weapons but wanted to limit it to the request by the Syrian government to examine just one instance of alleged chemical weapons use. Kalamanov warned that “the obscure manoeuvres” to broaden the scope of the investigation “are a cause for serious concern.”

    China and Iran joined Russia in blocking stronger language in the final document, a U.S. official who attended the conference said in a May 21 interview. Other diplomatic participants and independent observers confirmed this account.

    In his April 19 closing statement to the conference, Robert Mikulak, the U.S. permanent representative to the OPCW, decried the final document’s “vague language” on OPCW cooperation with Ban’s office as “clear evidence that we are heading in the wrong direction.” He said that some delegations were opposing language that they previously had found acceptable.

    He was referring to the March 27 statement by Bhaswati Mukherjee of India, issued after a meeting of the OPCW Executive Council in The Hague. In the statement, Mukherjee, who chaired the council at the time, said that it “expressed its unequivocal support” for the UN investigation. The 41-member council is the OPCW’s main policymaking organ.

    Üzümcü acknowledged that some parties “wanted to see more on Syria” but that others argued that “the political aspects have to be addressed rather in New York,” referring to the UN headquarters. He said the focus of the final document’s language on the alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria and its “unequivocal rejection” of chemical weapons use should be welcomed.

    Mikulak also highlighted the importance of that aspect of the document, but said that, overall, the language on Syria “is a faint whisper from a gathering of States Parties that should speak loudly and clearly when the world faces a real threat from chemical weapons.” Mary Whelan of Ireland, speaking for the 27 member states of the European Union, said the language on Syria “does not adequately capture the depth of concerns expressed by many delegations of all groups and regions in the plenary debate.”

    In contrast, a Russian delegate to the conference called the language “well balanced and demonstrative of a common ground.” In a May 28 e-mail to Arms Control Today, he said it “sends the right message to the right people and avoids taking sides based on political preference.”

    Standoff on Incapacitants

    The conference also failed to find consensus on the use of incapacitants. Despite extensive discussions, the final document contained no new language clarifying the permissibility of the use in domestic law enforcement of these chemicals, which are developed for the purpose of incapacitating people without killing them. Several delegations, led by Switzerland, raised the issue in their opening statements. Switzerland had pushed consideration of the issue at the 2008 review conference. (See ACT, May 2008.) At this year’s review conference, there were extensive negotiations, primarily involving Russia, Switzerland, the United States, and a few other countries, but the talks failed to produce language on which participants could agree.

    Perhaps the most notable use of incapacitants involved Russian police forces in 2002 ending a hostage crisis by pumping incapacitating gas into a Moscow theater where Chechen rebels held 850 hostages. More than 130 of the hostages and 40 attackers were killed during the raid, many of them by the effects of the gas.

    The CWC permits riot control agents for “law enforcement including domestic riot control purposes.” The convention defines riot control agents as chemicals that can “produce rapidly in humans sensory irritation or disabling physical effects which disappear within a short time following termination of exposure.” The CWC has no corresponding definition for incapacitants, which is one reason that many CWC member states have sought clarification of the issue.

    “The silence and uncertainty surrounding the use of toxic chemicals for law enforcement purposes other than riot control agents” may erode the CWC, argued Markus Börlin, the Swiss ambassador to the OPCW, in his opening statement to the review conference April 8.

    Rose Gottemoeller, acting U.S. undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, said in her opening statement that “concern has increased that illicit programs could possibly be concealed under the guise of a legitimate treaty purpose, such as law enforcement.”

    A Swiss paper drafted for the conference suggested that a definition of incapacitants be included in the final report. Switzerland suggested that the review conference ask the Executive Council to “initiate discussions on what measures should be taken to increase transparency” among states-parties on incapacitants “for law enforcement purposes” and that the issues should then be discussed again at the end of 2013 at the CWC’s annual conference of states-parties.

    According to several diplomatic sources, the proposal ran into opposition, particularly from Russia. The 2002 Moscow theater incident was “in the back of everyone’s mind,” the U.S. official who attended the conference said in the May 21 interview.

    According to the diplomats’ accounts, Switzerland and Russia, with the involvement of several other delegations, tried to sort out their differences. The day before the end of the conference, participants agreed that the review conference should ask governmental experts to discuss the application of toxic chemicals, except riot control agents, for law enforcement purposes and deliver a consensus report on the issue to the Executive Council. According to several diplomats, Russia on the final day of the conference tried to broaden the focus of future deliberations by suggesting that the experts’ mandate should be expanded to discuss all chemicals that can cause temporary incapacitation through their action on life processes. Such a mandate would include riot control agents. The United States has consistently argued that the use of riot control agents is permissible under the CWC.

    The new language by Russia differed “radically” from the earlier version, the U.S. official said. According to him and other diplomats who were present, the U.S. delegation requested guidance from Washington, which did not arrive before the end of the conference. As a result, the final document dropped the issue completely, which many delegations lamented in their final statements.

    Several participants argued that the broad support at the review conference for further discussions means that incapacitants are now likely to be discussed in the policymaking organs of the OPCW. In the May 23 interview, Üzümcü conceded that the OPCW Technical Secretariat did not receive a mandate by the review conference to pursue the issue of incapacitants. But he said he expects states-parties such as Switzerland to “continue to raise this issue.”

    In the May 28 e-mail, the Russian delegate said that “much will depend on addressing the problems of that one delegation which blocked the adoption of the language on incapacitants,” a reference to the United States.

    Mikulak, speaking to the Executive Council on May 6, said “the United States believes that agreement on language [on incapacitants] is within reach.” He promised that the U.S. delegation would “work closely and intensively with the Swiss and other delegations so that this important discussion can continue.”

    In her comments on behalf of the EU at the same meeting, Whelan said she regretted that, “in spite of widespread support,” there was no reference to incapacitating agents in the final document. She said that the EU “hopes that this matter can be taken up again soon.”

    Stefan Mogl, head of the chemistry department at Spiez Laboratory in Switzerland and a member of Swiss delegation to the review conference, wrote in a May 28 e-mail to Arms Control Today that his country would continue its “efforts to support policy discussion as well as to develop verification methods for incapacitating chemical agents.”

    Progress Seen

    For years, diplomats at the OPCW, the organization’s staffers, and independent analysts have said they fear that as the destruction of declared chemical weapons stockpiles progresses, and the need for monitoring of weapons destruction therefore decreases as the remaining stockpiles shrink, the OPCW will lose expertise and manpower. Üzümcü referred to this issue in his opening remarks to the review conference, saying that a “sudden reduction of resources for any institution can rapidly erode its capacities, its expertise, its institutional memory, and indeed its ability to carry on the remaining tasks.”

    But in the May 23 interview, he cited this area as one in which the final document demonstrated significant progress. According to the document, the parties “[s]tressed that the OPCW should remain the global repository of knowledge and expertise” on chemical weapons issues and asked the secretariat “to identify and implement ways of ensuring continuity in its knowledge base and expertise in these areas.”

    Üzümcü said that one idea he wanted to explore is building a center to ensure that the OPCW retains its expertise on the destruction of chemical weapons and is able to provide this expertise when required. The center would include a library and expand the development of “e-learning tools” for use by CWC parties, he said.

    Another positive development from the conference, the U.S. official said, is that the OPCW secretariat is preparing a matrix of follow-up activities for the upcoming Executive Council meeting in July. “It remains to be seen how effective the follow-up is,” but the postconference activities have “started on the right track,” he said.

    He also said the process was “much better” than in previous review conferences, allowing broader participation among the parties and by nongovernmental organizations.

    Differences over language addressing the possible use of chemical weapons in Syria sharply divided the recent review conference for the Chemical Weapons Convention.

    Egypt Protests Inaction on WMD Meeting

    Marcus Taylor and Kelsey Davenport

    The Egyptian delegation walked out of a meeting of member states of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) on April 29 to protest the failure to convene a conference on creating a zone free of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in the Middle East, and an Egyptian Foreign Ministry official said May 17 that other steps may follow.

    In his April 29 statement explaining the walkout, Hisham Badr, who led the Egyptian delegation at the April 22-May 3 NPT meeting in Geneva, decried the “unacceptable and continuous failure” to schedule the conference on the WMD-free zone. Badr, Egyptian assistant foreign minister for international organizations and institutions, said Cairo is insisting that an “exact date” be set for convening the conference.

    The Geneva meeting was the second of three preparatory sessions for the 2015 NPT Review Conference.

    In a May 17 e-mail to Arms Control Today, the Egyptian Foreign Ministry official said that continued delay in rescheduling the conference may cause Egypt to take further actions to “increase pressure” on the United States and other conveners, which may include a boycott of next year’s NPT meeting by “more members of the Arab League.”

    At the 2010 NPT Review Conference, Russia, the United Kingdom, the United States, and the UN secretary-general were designated as the organizers of a 2012 conference on establishing a Middle Eastern WMD-free zone. The decision to hold the conference was critical to the NPT parties’ agreement on the final document of the 2010 conference. (See ACT, June 2010.) Finnish Undersecretary of State Jaakko Laajava was later appointed as conference facilitator.

    The 2012 meeting on the WMD-free zone was supposed to be held last December, but the conveners announced Nov. 23 that the conference would be postponed due to disagreements on “core issues” and “present conditions in the Middle East,” according to the U.S. statement. In making the announcement, the conveners did not set a deadline for rescheduling or holding the meeting. (See ACT, December 2012.)

    Before the postponement was announced, every country in the region except for Israel had verbally committed to attending the meeting in Helsinki, although some observers said Iran may have committed to attending the conference only after learning that it would be postponed. (See ACT, March 2013.)

    An Arab League ministerial statement released after the group’s Jan. 13 meeting said that the group would consider boycotting the Geneva preparatory meeting because of concern that the rescheduling of the conference on the WMD-free zone was not being taken seriously, according to several news reports.

    The Egyptian official said there was an attempt to hold an informal meeting during the NPT conference to work on an agenda for the meeting on the WMD-free zone, but not all of the countries in the region agreed to attend.

    A former member of the Israeli Knesset told Arms Control Today in a May 24 e-mail that Israel was unlikely to agree to attend any preliminary meeting without assurances that “core regional security issues” would be included on the agenda of the conference on the WMD-free zone. He said the Arab League’s “unreasonable insistence” that Israel could attend informal meetings on crafting an agenda only if it agreed to attend the conference was preventing more proactive Israeli participation.

    He said that the Arab League is not taking Israel’s “unique security concerns” into account in its planning for discussions on the zone.

    The Egyptian official stressed that the United States must play “a more proactive role” to ensure that all countries in the region agree to schedule and attend the conference. At the time of the postponement, the United States said it remained committed to holding a conference, but did not specify a time frame. Russia called for the conference to be held no later than April of this year.

    Thomas Countryman, U.S. assistant secretary of state for international security and nonproliferation, said April 30 that he regretted the Egyptian decision to leave the NPT conference but that it does not affect the U.S. commitment to convening a conference on creating the zone.

    Countryman, who led the U.S. delegation to the NPT preparatory meeting, added that “leadership must also come from states of the region.”

    In his April 29 statement at the Geneva meeting, Laajava said that there is nothing preventing the rescheduling of the WMD-free-zone conference and that it can “be convened without delay.”

    Laajava said that he had suggested that the conference should be “relatively brief” and should aim to reaffirm the “common objective of a WMD-free zone.” He said follow-up steps, such as regional cooperation and expert-level work on arms control issues, could then create a sustainable process for establishing the zone.

    Egypt walked out of a meeting of member states of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty to protest the failure to schedule a conference on creating a zone free of weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East.

    U.S. Considers More Sanctions on Iran

    Kelsey Davenport

    Congress and the Obama administration are considering expanding sanctions against Iran, as negotiations between Tehran and six world powers over Iran’s controversial nuclear program appear to have stalled again.

    Legislation sponsored by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) and passed by that panel May 22 would further restrict trade with Iran and limit Iran’s access to overseas currency reserves.

    An amendment added to the legislation would require that the six countries still importing oil from Iran—China, India, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and Turkey—reduce their combined purchases of Iranian oil by one million barrels per day within a year. This reduction would result in a de facto oil embargo because Iran is currently exporting just more than one million barrels per day.

    The legislation, which has more than 350 co-sponsors, will “increase the costs” on Iran for continuing to move forward with its nuclear program, Royce said May 22.

    But Wendy Sherman, undersecretary of state for political affairs, warned Congress in testimony at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing May 15 that if the United States wants to require further reductions in the oil imports, it has to “work very carefully” with the six importing countries.

    Under a provision of the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act, countries must receive exemptions from the U.S. government to continue importing oil from Iran or face U.S. sanctions, which include restrictions on their access to U.S. financial markets. The U.S. government grants exemptions for 180 days. To renew them, countries must demonstrate that they have significantly reduced their purchases of Iranian oil. (See ACT, July/August 2012.)

    In her May 15 testimony, Sherman stressed the importance of maintaining unity and international pressure on Iran during negotiations and cautioned against imposing any sanctions that would further limit oil imports by the six countries beyond the reductions required by current law.

    China, the largest importer of Iranian oil, is one of the six countries collectively known as the P5+1 negotiating with Iran over its nuclear program. Its exemption will be up for renewal in June. The other five countries in the negotiations are France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

    A congressional staffer familiar with the legislation told Arms Control Today in a May 20 e-mail that the legislation introduced by Royce would likely pass the House of Representatives and the Senate before the August congressional recess, with possible Senate amendments imposing further sanctions.

    Sherman said the administration is considering additional executive orders that would increase pressure on Iran, but did not provide details. At the same hearing, David Cohen, treasury undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, said the administration is looking at a “variety of different means” to target Iran’s revenues, Iran’s access to currency reserves in foreign countries, and lower the value of Iran’s currency, the rial.

    Cohen noted that on July 1, current sanctions on anyone selling gold and other precious metals to the Iranian government will be expanded to cover sales to private Iranian individuals. Cohen said that due to the decline in the rial’s value, Iranians are “dumping their rials to buy gold.”

    Talks Stall

    As Washington ratchets up the pressure on Tehran, negotiations between Iran and the six world powers over Iran’s nuclear program appear to have stalled.

    On May 15, Catherine Ashton, the lead negotiator for the P5+1, met with lead Iranian negotiator Saeed Jalili in Istanbul. Ashton said that she and Jalili discussed the proposal put forward during the last round of negotiations and would “reflect” on how to move on to “the next stage of the process.” No date was set for further talks between Ashton and Jalili or the resumption of negotiations between Iran and the P5+1.

    Jalili described the meeting as “fruitful” and said that he and Ashton would talk again soon to set a date for the next round of negotiations.

    The P5+1 and Iran have met twice this year in Almaty, Kazakhstan, to continue negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program after an eight-month hiatus. The last round of negotiations took place April 5-6. During these negotiations, the P5+1 offered some sanctions relief, including allowing gold sales, but the Iranian negotiators said the sanctions relief was not commensurate with the P5+1 demands on Tehran. (See ACT, May 2013.)

    Tehran maintains that its nuclear program is entirely peaceful, but the international community is concerned that Iran might choose to pursue nuclear weapons.

    No Progress in Iran-IAEA Meeting

    Also on May 15, Iran met with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to continue negotiations on the so-called structured approach, which will define the scope and sequence of the agency’s investigations into Iranian nuclear activities with possible military dimensions.

    IAEA Deputy Director-General Herman Nackaerts, who led the agency delegation, said May 15 that the parties “could not finalize the structured approach document.” He said that the agency’s commitment to dialogue was “unwavering” but a date for the next meeting had not been set.

    In a November 2011 report to its Board of Governors, the IAEA laid out the evidence of the alleged activities. The meeting on May 15 was the 10th meeting between the parties since the beginning of 2012.

    Director-General Yukiya Amano said in a Dec. 6 speech at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington that the talks should not continue “without producing any concrete result.” In her May 15 testimony, Sherman seemed to make a similar point, saying that, “at some point,” Amano will have to tell the UN Security Council that it must take further action because of the lack of progress.

    The Obama administration and Congress are considering measures to expand sanctions against Iran, as negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program appear to have stalled again.

    Nuclear Sub Costs Complicate Navy Plans

    Tom Z. Collina

    In the face of growing federal budget pressures, the U.S. Navy in May began to more openly question Obama administration plans to purchase a dozen new nuclear-armed submarines.

    In its shipbuilding plan for fiscal year 2014, submitted to Congress on May 10, the Navy warns that current plans to build 12 submarines and maintain a surface fleet of 300 ships are not compatible. The Navy states that if it funds the submarines “from within its own resources,” the program will “take away from construction of other ships in the battle force such as attack submarines, destroyers, aircraft carriers and amphibious warfare ships.”

    The 12 planned submarines are expected to be the backbone of the U.S. nuclear triad of delivery systems, which also includes land-based missiles and long-range bombers, for the future. The Defense Department wants to replace all three legs of the triad over the next two decades, potentially costing hundreds of billions of dollars at a time when budgets are tight.

    Plans for modernization of the triad may be revised under Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s Strategic Choices and Modernization Review, due to be released in June, according to Pentagon officials. Senate leaders have asked Hagel to come up with plans for cutting the Defense Department budget by $52 billion for fiscal year 2014. That is the amount by which the Pentagon budget would drop from the fiscal year 2014 request if sequestration—the automatic cuts required by the 2011 Budget Control Act—is not averted.

    The Navy is planning to replace its current submarine fleet with a model known as the SSBN(X). As budgets tighten, speculation is growing that the Navy will not be able to afford to do that. In May 9 testimony before the House Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee, Gen. Robert Kehler, the head of U.S. Strategic Command (STRATCOM), said, “I think the ultimate number of submarines that we procure is still an open question.”

    The 12 planned submarines, each to be loaded with 16 Trident ballistic missiles and around 80 nuclear warheads, would cost a total of about $90 billion to develop and build. According to the Navy’s shipbuilding plan, construction of the 12 subs would take place from 2021 to 2035, during which time the Navy would need $19.2 billion per year on average for all shipbuilding. That is almost twice the Navy’s fiscal year 2014 request for shipbuilding of $10.9 billion, which does not take sequestration into account. The average construction cost for each SSBN(X) would be about $6.5 billion, accounting for about one-third of the shipbuilding budget starting in 2021, with an additional $11 billion in development costs. The fiscal 2014 request for SSNB(X) development is $1.1 billion.

    Hagel has acknowledged the budget pressure. In a May 10 letter to congressional leaders explaining the Navy’s shipbuilding plans, he wrote that “there will be resourcing challenges…largely due to investment requirements associated with the SSBN(X) program.”

    Others have been more blunt about the dim prospects that the Navy will be able to find additional resources on the scale it would need. “The Navy’s 30-year shipbuilding plan is a ‘plan’ in name only,” Rep. Randy Forbes (R-Va.) said in a May 10 statement. “At current funding levels, it remains an exercise in wishful thinking.”

    Speaking at a May 8 hearing of the Senate Armed Services Seapower Subcommittee, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) called the Navy’s plan “a fantasy.”

    The Navy has been trying to convince the administration and Congress that the subs are “national” assets and should be supported by funds outside of the Navy’s budget. Asked at the May 8 hearing if the Navy had made any progress in finding additional resources outside its budget, Sean Stackley, assistant secretary of the Navy for research, development, and acquisition, said, “[T]hose talks have not progressed. I should probably leave it at that.”

    If the Navy has to factor sequestration cuts into its budget, as seems likely, funding will get even tighter. At an April 30 event in Washington, Vice Adm. William Burke, deputy chief of naval operations warfare systems, said that buying 12 SSBN(X) subs under sequestration would cause the Navy to “reduce procurement as well as retire existing ships, leaving us with a Navy in the vicinity of 200 ships, at which point we may not be considered a global navy.” The Navy currently plans to maintain a fleet of around 300 ships, including submarines, through 2043, up from about 280 ships today.

    The Navy’s ability to change the number of SSBN(X) subs it needs to buy and the time at which it buys them is limited by current U.S. nuclear policy guidance. That guidance determines how many targets must be held at risk by strategic nuclear weapons and thus how many submarines must be “on station” at all times. Submarines that are on station are deployed far off the U.S. coasts and ready to launch their missiles within an hour or so. (See ACT, December 2011.)

    Current requirements call for 10 subs to be operational, with another two out of service for repairs at any given time after a decade or more of operation. Such requirements, set by the president, are under review as part of the Nuclear Posture Review implementation study. (See ACT, June 2011.)

    As federal budgets tighten, the Navy is raising the alarm that it cannot afford to build a dozen new nuclear-armed submarines while maintaining a global surface fleet.

    Russia, U.S. Trade Missile Defense Offers

    Tom Z. Collina

    The United States and Russia are exchanging proposals on missile defense cooperation, possibly leading to another round of reductions in nuclear stockpiles, senior officials from both countries said, following a Russian official’s May 15 statement that Moscow would respond “in a constructive spirit” to a U.S. proposal made in April.

    The U.S. proposal, which has not been made public, was contained in a letter from President Barack Obama that national security adviser Tom Donilon delivered to Russian President Vladimir Putin on April 15. The Russian official, Putin’s foreign policy aide Yuri Ushakov, said in April that the letter “covers military-political problems, among them missile defense and nuclear arsenals.”

    Nikolai Patrushev, chief of Russia’s Security Council, delivered Putin’s reply during a meeting with Obama and Donilon on May 22, according to a statement by the Russian embassy in Washington. Patrushev also met separately with Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel May 21 to discuss missile defense and other issues, according to the Pentagon. Hagel traveled to Moscow for a May 23 conference sponsored by the Russia Ministry of Defense, where missile defense was a prominent issue of discussion.

    This latest round of missile defense diplomacy follows Hagel’s March announcement that the United States would cancel the planned Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) IIB missile interceptor program in Europe, which Russia claimed could undermine its strategic nuclear deterrent. (See ACT, April 2013.) Russia has said that it will not consider Obama’s proposals for additional nuclear arms reductions unless its concerns about U.S. missile interceptor plans are addressed.

    The Moscow Times and other Russian media reported May 16 that Obama’s letter proposes “to develop a legally binding agreement on transparency, which would include the exchange of information and confirmation that our programs do not present a threat to each other’s defense forces.” This would presumably include a U.S. commitment to Moscow that its intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) based in western Russia would not be threatened by U.S. interceptors to be based in Poland and Romania and on nearby ships. Russia’s main objection to U.S. missile defense plans for Europe has been that they would threaten Moscow’s ICBMs.

    In a May 15 e-mail, a Pentagon spokesman declined to comment on the Russian media reports.

    U.S. officials have made statements that are broadly similar but provide less detail. Madelyn Creedon, assistant secretary of defense for global affairs, testified May 9 before the Senate Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee that the administration was seeking to revive earlier proposals “that could ultimately lead to discussions with respect to both transparency and cooperation with the Russians on missile defense.” The Obama administration has been proposing greater transparency on missile defense activities since 2011, and U.S.-Russian missile defense cooperation has been a bipartisan goal since the Reagan administration. (See ACT, April 2011.)

    In response to U.S. proposals for greater cooperation on missile defense, Russia has been seeking a legally binding agreement, such as a treaty, to limit the number, location, and speed of U.S. interceptors based in Europe. The Obama administration has rejected this proposal because, among other reasons, the Senate would be unlikely to approve a treaty limiting U.S. missile defenses. Obama’s proposal on transparency would be an executive agreement and not subject to Senate approval, according to the Moscow Times report.

    Obama’s cancellation of the planned SM-3 II-B interceptor deployment should reduce Russia’s need for a treaty-based commitment, as Moscow was primarily concerned about the capabilities of that interceptor, according to former administration officials. A Russian diplomatic source was quoted by Kommersant May 15 as saying that Russia “could well accept the U.S. proposal” because “more transparency in the missile defense field is useful both in itself and as an instrument to improve mutual confidence.”

    Obama also reportedly suggested that the two countries could conclude a framework agreement on further reductions to their nuclear arsenals. In his State of the Union address in February, Obama reiterated his support for a follow-on agreement to the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START). Obama has been calling for another round of reductions for strategic and tactical nuclear weapons deployed and in storage.

    Kommersant reported May 24 that Putin, in his letter to Obama, was still seeking a legal guarantee that U.S. missile interceptors would not threaten Russian ICBMs.

    Talks are set to continue, as Putin and Obama are scheduled to meet on the sidelines of the summit of the Group of Eight industrialized countries in Northern Ireland on June 17-18 and in St. Petersburg, Russia, around the September 5-6 Group of 20 summit.

    In response to the shelving of the SM-3 IIB program, 19 Republican House members wrote to Hagel to ask him to request $250 million for 20 interceptors for an East Coast site to defend against possible Iranian long-range missiles. At the May 9 hearing, Creedon testified that she does not see a gap in missile defense coverage of the East Coast. “The East Coast is well protected” by the 30 interceptors now based in Alaska and California, she said.

    Russian and U.S. officials are trading proposals on missile defense cooperation, possibly leading to another round of nuclear stockpile reductions. Russia says it is open to U.S. offers, but no agreement has been reached.

    Missile Defense Détente?

    Daryl G. Kimball

    The meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Barack Obama later this month at the summit of the Group of Eight industrialized countries presents the two leaders with an important chance to achieve a win-win breakthrough on missile defense and accelerate nuclear arms reductions. Putin and Obama must seize the opportunity.

    Since 2011, U.S. and Russian leaders have failed to make progress in their ongoing talks on missile defense cooperation and data sharing, largely due to Russian concerns about U.S. plans for deployment of Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) IIB long-range interceptors in Poland by 2022, which some Russian military officials believe might threaten a portion of Russia’s land-based, nuclear-armed ballistic missiles. These concerns have led Russia to resist further progress on offensive nuclear reductions.

    But on March 15, U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced the effective cancellation of the program, citing congressional funding cuts and significant technical problems. Congress had cut the funding, and the program was plagued with significant technical problems. The Obama administration’s latest budget request contains no funding for the SM-3 IIB missile program, and administration officials have told Congress there are no plans to revive it.

    With the decision to terminate the program, there is no other U.S. missile interceptor capability in place or under development for Europe that could plausibly threaten Russian strategic missiles. Moreover, U.S. ground-based strategic interceptors in Alaska and California are limited in number—currently 30, potentially 44 by 2017—and still are not capable of defeating ballistic missiles equipped with countermeasures such as those that Russia deploys.

    Instead, U.S. missile defenses will have only a limited capability to counter short- and medium-range missiles from Iran and North Korea and a handful of unsophisticated, long-range missiles that those two states might field in the years ahead.

    These realities should open the way to a legally binding Russian-U.S. agreement for the regular exchange of information on missile defense programs. Such an agreement would help Russia verify U.S. claims about its missile defense capabilities and should be accompanied by a joint presidential statement clarifying that the two countries’ missile interceptor programs do not threaten each other’s security.

    Sharing of missile defense data is a commonsense, bipartisan idea. In 1986, President Ronald Reagan suggested that both countries abandon the concept of mutual assured destruction by agreeing to eliminate all offensive ballistic missiles within 10 years while researching and jointly developing strategic missile defenses.

    In May 2001, President George W. Bush called for “a new cooperative relationship,” including in the area of missile defense. In 2004 the Bush administration began seeking a defense technical cooperation agreement with Russia that would have addressed a broad range of cooperative research and development activities, including missile defense.

    The 2008 report of the bipartisan Congressional Commission on the Strategic Posture of the United States found that the United States should “strengthen international cooperation for missile defense…with Russia.”

    The data-sharing agreement now under discussion would enhance strategic stability and opportunities for U.S.-Russian cooperation on missile defense and joint early-warning procedures.

    By helping to clarify that U.S. missile interceptors are neither intended to offset Russian strategic nuclear forces nor capable of doing so, an Obama-Putin understanding on missile defenses would also open the door to further cuts in each country’s still massive and expensive nuclear arsenals. Even under the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), both sides can deploy up to 1,550 strategic warheads on 700 missiles, submarines, and long-range bombers until 2021.

    As Obama and the Pentagon have determined, a nuclear arsenal of this size far exceeds what is necessary to deter nuclear attack from any current or future adversary.

    Doing nothing is not in either country’s best interests. Russia has already cut its arsenal below New START ceilings, and the United States no longer needs to maintain the capacity to redeploy large numbers of stored warheads on its oversized missile and bomber force.

    A new, rapid round of reductions to 1,000 or fewer deployed strategic warheads for each side with the option of further cuts would help draw China and other nuclear-armed states into a multilateral nuclear arms control process, which Russian and U.S. leaders say is a key goal.

    Obama and Putin should effect further cuts through a formal treaty if possible. Otherwise, the two leaders could announce that they will implement further strategic reductions through reciprocal, parallel actions, which could be verified through the existing New START framework.

    From time to time, the United States and Russia will have their disagreements on geopolitical issues, but it is past time for Obama and Putin to make progress on missile defense cooperation and accelerate nuclear arms reductions.

    The meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Barack Obama later this month at the summit of the Group of Eight industrialized countries presents the two leaders with an important chance to achieve a win-win breakthrough on missile defense and accelerate nuclear arms reductions. Putin and Obama must seize the opportunity.

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