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"I actually have a pretty good collection of Arms Control Today, which I have read throughout my career. It's one of the few really serious publications on arms control issues."
– Gary Samore
Former White House Coordinator for Arms Control and WMD Terrorism
May 2014
Edition Date: 
Friday, May 2, 2014
Cover Image: 

South Korea Tests Longer-Range Missile

Kelsey Davenport

South Korea last month successfully tested a new ballistic missile that is capable of hitting all of North Korea, a spokesman for the South Korean Ministry of National Defense said at an April 4 press briefing.

According to spokesman Kim Min-seok, the new missile can deliver a 1,000-kilogram payload at a range of up to 500 kilometers.

The missile was launched from a test site on the west coast of South Korea on March 23. The launch was the first to take advantage of a 2012 agreement between Seoul and Washington allowing South Korea to extend the range of its ballistic missiles.

Under a 2001 agreement with the United States, South Korea had been limited to developing ballistic missiles with ranges of no more than 300 kilometers for a 500-kilogram payload. But in October 2012, Washington and Seoul announced a revision to the 2001 agreement, allowing South Korea to extend the range to 800 kilometers. (See ACT, November 2012.) The revision kept the payload cap at 500 kilograms.

Kim said that South Korea plans to develop missiles with an 800-kilometer range.

Under these revised guidelines, South Korea will be able to target any site in North Korea from anywhere in its own territory. At the time that the October 2012 revision was announced, the United States said the range extension would allow South Korea to improve its ability to defend against North Korea’s ballistic missiles.

North Korea is believed to have several varieties of operationally deployed ballistic missiles, including the Nodong, which has a range of approximately 1,300 kilometers. North Korea also is developing intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), although it has yet to conduct a successful test of a missile in that category. It has displayed ICBMs in parades, but many experts have said those missiles were mock-ups.

The (North) Korean People’s Army complained in an April 5 statement that Seoul did not provide adequate warnings that it was planning to test the missile.

NK News, an independent website focused on developments in North Korea, reported April 7 that international organizations that provide alerts on missile launches for maritime and aviation purposes were not told that the launch would take place on March 23.

South Korea last month successfully tested a new ballistic missile that is capable of hitting all of North Korea, a spokesman for the South Korean Ministry of National Defense said at an April 4 press briefing.

 

U.S. Reviewing, Not Halting, Russia Work

Daniel Horner

Although the U.S. Energy Department is conducting a review of all its “Russian-related activities” in response to Russia’s recent actions in Ukraine, it has not suspended nuclear cooperation with Russia, the U.S. embassy in Moscow said last month in a press release.

According to the release, the Energy Department and its semiautonomous National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), whose responsibilities include nuclear security and nonproliferation work in Russia, “remain absolutely committed to their global nuclear security mission and responsibilities” and see “[c]ooperation with Russia [as] an essential element” of a worldwide effort to prevent nuclear terrorism.

The April 10 embassy release appeared to be in response to reports in Russian media a few days earlier saying the joint nuclear work had been suspended. Prior to the reports, the Energy Department had announced it was conducting the review.

The Defense Department also has been heavily involved in the two-decade-long effort to dismantle or destroy Russian nonconventional weapons and secure proliferation-sensitive materials. The effort originated in the Pentagon with the Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) program, often known by the names of the two senators who sponsored the 1991 legislation creating it, Sam Nunn (D-Ga.) and Richard Lugar (R-Ind.).

In an April 18 e-mail to Arms Control Today, Pentagon spokeswoman Jennifer Elzea said the Defense Department was “carefully evaluating” its CTR activities in the region.

Russia’s annexation of the Crimean peninsula and other actions indicating that Moscow may be poised to seize control of additional parts of Ukraine have spurred questions in the U.S. Congress about the wisdom of various forms of U.S. cooperation with Russia. But so far, it appears the only casualty from the nuclear security cooperation effort is the NNSA commitment to provide Russia with the Multiple Integrated Laser Engagement System.

That system, which some observers have described as resembling an advanced version of “laser tag,” is used in force-on-force drills. In Russia, it has been used to train the guard forces protecting civilian and military nuclear materials. But a group of 18 House Republicans, led by Reps. Jim Bridenstine (Okla.) and Michael Turner (Ohio), cited its military uses by the U.S. armed forces to argue that providing the system to Russia under the current circumstances is a “mistake.” Acting NNSA Administrator Bruce Held agreed that the United States should stop providing Russia with the laser system.

Much of the U.S.-Russian nuclear security work has restarted only recently, after a hiatus of nearly a year. The so-called CTR umbrella agreement, which provided the legal underpinnings for the work, expired last June and was replaced with an accord that scales back the cooperation in some areas. (See ACT, July/August 2013.)

Key elements of the transition to the new agreement, such as the renegotiation of contracts and arrangements for U.S. access to Russian facilities, took many months to resolve. In early April, Global Security Newswire quoted Anne Harrington, NNSA deputy administrator for defense nuclear nonproliferation, as saying the work had just recently resumed.

That meant work restarted in the midst of the Ukraine crisis. By at least some measures, the crisis does not appear to have curtailed the effort. In an April 28 interview, Matthew Bunn, a nonproliferation official in the Clinton administration who is now with Harvard University’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, said NNSA delegations have made at least two major visits to Moscow in recent weeks to pursue work under existing contracts.

Bunn, who is a member of the Arms Control Association Board of Directors, noted that U.S.-Russian security cooperation continued during the Georgian-Russian war in 2008.

Similarly, the Ukraine crisis and the “poisonous” atmosphere it has created should not be allowed to disrupt nuclear security cooperation, he said. Although the security situation in Russia has improved greatly since the mid-1990s, the U.S. government needs to continue to “protect the large taxpayer investment” represented by those improvements and work to “fix the problems that still exist.” At the same time, the United States should be encouraging Russia to allocate funds and put regulations in place for those purposes, he said.

The U.S. government is reviewing its nuclear security cooperation work in Russia, but, contrary to some Russian media reports, has not suspended it.

Syria Misses Chemical Removal Deadline

Daniel Horner

Syria missed an April 27 deadline for removal of its chemical weapons materials, with about 8 percent of its declared arsenal of 1,300 metric tons reportedly remaining to be shipped out of the country or destroyed domestically.

Also in late April, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) announced it would investigate allegations of chlorine use in recent weeks in the area near the Syrian village of Kafr Zita.

On the shipment of materials out of the country, Sigrid Kaag, the special coordinator of the joint mission by the OPCW and the United Nations to oversee the removal and destruction effort, said it was the mission’s “hope and expectation” that Syria “will take the final step very soon,” according to the UN News Service.

The news service, reporting on an April 27 press briefing by Kaag in Damascus, cited a figure of 92.5 percent completion for the removal and destruction effort. In recent comments, U.S. officials have used similar figures. At an April 28 press briefing, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said, “With our international partners, we’re going to continue to press the regime to live up to its obligations, including by removing the remaining 8 percent.”

Syria is responsible for collecting the chemicals from sites across the country and bringing them to its Mediterranean port of Latakia. From there, an international convoy takes them away from Syria. Most of the highest-priority chemicals eventually will be transferred to the MV Cape Ray, a U.S. vessel carrying two mobile units that will neutralize the chemicals while the ship is in international waters.

Statements by OPCW and U.S. officials in late April suggested that the remaining chemical weapons material was located at a single site, but they did not name the site.

Under a schedule set last November by the OPCW Executive Council, the highest-priority materials were supposed to leave the country by Dec. 31. All other materials that are part of the overseas destruction program were to leave by Feb. 5. The rest of the chemical agents that Syria declared were to be destroyed within the country.

The removal dates were set with an eye to a June 30 deadline for destruction of the chemical agents. That timetable was established last September by the Executive Council and the UN Security Council. (See ACT, October 2013.) After Syria missed the December and February deadlines, officials from the OPCW, the UN, and key countries in late February and early March negotiated a revised schedule, setting April 27 as the deadline.

The Long View

In an April 28 e-mail to Arms Control Today, Jean Pascal Zanders, director of The Trench, a consultancy on disarmament issues, expressed some doubt that the June 30 deadline would be met. Nevertheless, he said, “[i]f this operation is completed successfully in the near future, and we look back upon the past months in a year or two, the missed deadlines will feature only as minor bumps along the road in the final narrative.”

Paul Walker, a former staff member of the House Armed Services Committee who is now director of environmental security and sustainability with Global Green USA, said considerations such as ensuring security, worker safety, and protection of the environment and public health are “much more important” than meeting a specific deadline.

In an April 28 e-mail to Arms Control Today, Walker, who is a member of the Arms Control Association Board of Directors, also said that once all the chemicals are removed from Syria, there should a “full release” of information identifying the chemicals and the amounts of each that are treated on the Cape Ray and elsewhere.

Probe Authorized

In its April 29 press release on the “fact-finding mission,” the OPCW did not give a time frame, saying only that its team would be heading to Syria “soon” to investigate the allegations of chlorine use. According to the release, “[T]he Syrian government, which has agreed to accept this mission, has undertaken to provide security in areas under its control.”

The Syrian government and the rebels fighting to topple it have charged each other with launching a chemical attack. The allegations of such an attack appear to be supported by videos posted on social media. Some observers have identified the agent as chlorine, but others have raised questions on that point.

In April 29 remarks to the OPCW Executive Council, Robert Mikulak, the U.S. ambassador to the OPCW, referred to “public reports and videos indicating the use of a toxic chemical, probably chlorine.”

Chlorine is not one of the chemicals named by the Chemical Weapons Convention, but Zanders and Walker emphasized that its use as a weapon of war would nevertheless constitute a violation of the treaty. According to the OPCW website, “[A] toxic or precursor chemical may be defined as a chemical weapon depending on its intended purpose…. The definition thus includes any chemical intended for chemical weapons purposes, regardless of whether it is specifically listed in the Convention, its Annexes or the schedules of chemicals.”


The original version of this article misstated the date of the April 28 comment by State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki.

 

Syria failed to meet a revised deadline for shipping all of its chemical weapons materials out of the country.

 

Summit ‘Gift Baskets’ Seen As Key

Kelsey Davenport

Multilateral commitments “broke significant ground” at the recent nuclear security summit and are key to strengthening nuclear security worldwide, a European official who attended the event said last month.

He was referring to the joint state-ments, or “gift baskets,” which were endorsed by varying groups of countries at the March 24-25 summit in The Hague. The meeting also produced a communiqué, which was endorsed by all participants—53 countries and four international organizations.

In an April 11 e-mail, the official said that the communiqué, while outlining “positive actions,” does not represent the “most forward thinking on advancing nuclear security” because not all countries are ready to take certain steps. “Achieving consensus required compromise,” he said, whereas the joint statements “allowed countries to go beyond the least common denominator.”

More than a dozen new joint statements were announced at the Hague summit. (See ACT, April 2014.) The gathering was the third in the series of biennial meetings started by President Barack Obama in Washington in 2010. The second summit was held in Seoul in 2012. (See ACT, April 2012.)

The joint statements are mechanisms through which groups of self-selecting states collaborate on multilateral actions in particular areas of nuclear security. They were a new feature of the 2012 summit, building on the individual country commitments, or “house gifts,” of the 2010 summit.

Many of the joint statements are initiatives that were launched at the 2014 summit, but several build on prior statements released at the 2012 summit. They cover a range of issues, including security of nuclear materials in transport, cooperation on combating illicit trafficking, security of nuclear information, security of radiological sources, and nuclear forensics.

In addition to a joint statement in which countries pledged to implement existing voluntary guidelines on nuclear security, the European official highlighted joint statements on nuclear forensics, information security, and treaty ratifications as ones that he particularly hoped would produce “significant results” by the 2016 nuclear security summit.

The 2016 meeting will be hosted by the United States, and many speculate that it will be the last summit.

Nuclear Forensics

One of the new joint statements announced in The Hague and led by the Netherlands focuses on nuclear forensics. In contrast to some joint statements, which outlined actions that countries intend to take, the nuclear forensics joint statement presented a number of already completed tools that countries can begin to use, such as a forensics lexicon and an online educational platform for trainings.

The Netherlands began working on this project in 2011 and has developed “a comprehensive programme to foster cooperation among nuclear and forensic institutes worldwide,” according to the national progress report released by the Dutch during the summit.

During the summit, each participating country submitted a progress report detailing the actions it had taken to strengthen nuclear security.

In a March 21 presentation previewing the joint statement, Ed van Zalen of the Netherlands Forensics Institute said that the Dutch sponsored the statement because there is a need to build international capacity to determine the source of nuclear and radiological materials in the event of an incident or theft. One of the actions the Dutch took was the creation of educational platforms that other countries can use for training and technology development for analysis techniques. This will help improve investigations of nuclear security incidents in the future, van Zalen said.

The statement, endorsed by 24 countries, also supports completion of a survey of good practices for investigating nuclear security incidents and the creation of a platform for expert discussion.

The countries “intend to continue the work in the field of nuclear forensics,” including the development of new investigative methods, the statement says.

Information Security

A joint statement on information security that the United Kingdom sponsored at the 2012 summit was expanded at the 2014 summit.

The initiative recognized the “fundamental need to protect sensitive nuclear information technology and expertise necessary to acquire or use nuclear materials for malicious purposes or to disrupt information technology based control systems at nuclear facilities.” Thirty-five states subscribed to the statement at the Hague summit.

Since 2012, the UK has led efforts to develop a code of conduct on nuclear information security. As part of the continuation of the effort, London is working with the World Institute for Nuclear Security to develop a best-practice guide for nuclear operators and with other subscribing countries to identify and disseminate sound practices for securing sensitive nuclear information.

States that joined the statement at the 2012 summit were asked to provide progress reports ahead of the 2014 summit. The UK published updates on actions that 21 states took to improve information security. Australia, for example, is developing a guidance document for classification of nuclear security information, and Japan included standards for managing and securing information when it set up its new nuclear regulatory agency.

The European official said requiring states to report on what they have done since 2012 to strengthen information security as part of the joint statement is a “positive step for holding states accountable” for their commitments and tracking progress.

Treaties

A joint statement sponsored by Indonesia aims to assist states in meeting a pledge made in the communiqué, which encourages states to become parties to key legal instruments on nuclear security, including the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material (CPPNM), its 2005 amendment, and the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism.

The latter convention, which entered into force in 2007, provides a definition of nuclear terrorism and specifies how states should handle offenders and illicit materials when seized. The CPPNM, which entered into force in 1987, sets security standards for nuclear material in transit. Its 2005 amendment would expand the scope of the physical protection measures to cover material in storage. The amendment is more than a dozen ratifications short of the number needed to bring it into force.

The Hague communiqué said that all summit participants would continue working to meet the goal of bringing the 2005 amendment into force “later this year.”

At the 2012 summit, Indonesia announced that it would consolidate existing guidance on nuclear security, including measures from the key treaties, simplifying the process for states to update domestic regulations to comply with the treaties and guidelines.

In its progress report at the Hague summit, Indonesia said that the initiative, known as the National Legislation Implementation Kit, will provide states “with building blocks to develop comprehensive national legislation in accordance with their own respective legal cultures and internal legal processes.”

In the April 11 e-mail, the European official said this could greatly assist countries that need “comprehensive nuclear security legislation.”

But a U.S. lawyer with expertise in international law said he was less optimistic about what the kit can accomplish because many of the countries that have not ratified the 2005 amendment would not be helped by the initiative. In an April 17 interview, he said that a comprehensive approach is “less helpful for countries that already adhere to some treaties” and have legislation relating to nuclear security in place, such as the United States. The United States has yet to complete its ratification of the 2005 amendment. (See ACT, March 2014.)

He also said that some treaties give states discretion in implementing particular aspects of nuclear security and that is difficult to capture in a comprehensive package.

Kelsey Davenport’s reporting from The Hague was supported by a grant from the Heinrich Böll Foundation North America.

Multilateral commitments made at the 2014 nuclear security summit are key to strengthening nuclear security, a participating official said.

N. Korea Warns of New Nuclear Test

Kelsey Davenport

North Korea announced that it is considering a “new form of nuclear test,” according to a statement in the state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on March 30.

The KCNA did not provide any further details, but said that the new type of test would help bolster Pyongyang’s nuclear deterrent. Experts speculate that this could involve testing a uranium-based device, a miniaturized device, or simultaneous nuclear explosions.

North Korea conducted nuclear tests in October 2006, May 2009, and February 2013. (See ACT, March 2013.) North Korea is thought to have four to 10 nuclear weapons that are plutonium based. Pyongyang possesses uranium-enrichment technology, but it is unclear if North Korea has developed nuclear warheads with highly enriched uranium.

In an April 27 article published on 38 North, a website run by the U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University, Nick Hansen and Jack Liu wrote that recent satellite images show increased activity “consistent with what would be expected during pre-test preparations,” near tunnel entrances at the Punggye-ri test site.

Hansen and Liu said that satellite images show what appears to be equipment being moved into the tunnels. The specialists conclude that these activities could indicate that the tunnel entrances have not yet been sealed. Sealing the tunnels is a “key indicator that a detonation is imminent,” they said.

Pyongyang made its announcement about the new kind of test in response to a March 27 UN Security Council statement denouncing North Korea for several firings of short- and medium-range ballistic missiles in March.

The statement in the KCNA said the missile launches were part of “self-defensive military drills.” The launches included two medium-range Nodong missiles on March 26 and several dozen short-range missiles over several weeks. The Nodong missile has a range of 1,300 kilometers and is capable of hitting Japan.

The Security Council unanimously condemned North Korea’s ballistic missile launches as a violation of Security Council resolutions, Sylvie Lucas, Luxembourg’s ambassador to the United Nations and president of the council for the month of March, said March 27 after the body met at the request of the United States to discuss the matter.

In October 2006, the Security Council passed Resolution 1718, which required North Korea to suspend “all activities related” to its ballistic missile program, including missile launches.

Further Sanctions

Lucas said that the members agreed to “consult on an appropriate response” at the Security Council meeting, but did not provide details on what measure the body was considering.

Joseph DeThomas, a former U.S. nonproliferation official, said April 10 that there will be a “heavy debate” at the UN over passing additional sanctions in the coming months.

Speaking at an April 10 press event hosted by 38 North, he said that targeting leadership financing could be a “game changer” that brings North Korea back to negotiations but that the small base of U.S. knowledge regarding North Korea makes it difficult to determine who and what the target of the sanctions should be.

In March, in a report to the Security Council, a panel of experts recommended focusing on implementing existing measures rather than passing further sanctions. (See ACT, April 2014.) Together, Resolutions 1718, 1874, 2087, and 2094 prohibit arms sales and transfers of nuclear and ballistic missile technology to North Korea, ban the sale of luxury items to Pyongyang, and give states broad authority to inspect North Korean cargo suspected of violating these measures if it passes through their territories.

When asked about the panel’s recommendations, DeThomas said that implementation is a problem in countries with smaller regulatory agencies because they cannot monitor everything at ports of entry.

Another difficulty in implementing the current sanctions is that some countries take a “narrow interpretation” of the authority granted by the Security Council or are “unwilling to use the authority because of economic and strategic interests,” he said.

Six-Party Talks

Meanwhile, the Obama administration dismissed reports last month that the United States was prepared to relax its preconditions for resuming negotiations with North Korea over its nuclear program.

Washington has repeatedly said that North Korea must take steps to demonstrate its commitment to denuclearization before negotiations resume. (See ACT, October 2013.) Pyongyang said it would abandon and dismantle its nuclear weapons program as part of an agreement in 2005 in return for possible future assistance on a peaceful nuclear energy program. That agreement collapsed in 2009, and North Korea has since taken steps to build up its nuclear arsenal, including restarting a reactor that produces plutonium that is particularly suitable for weapons. (See ACT, September 2013.)

In an April 11 press briefing, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said that “nothing has changed” regarding the U.S. position on preconditions for the talks and that the “approach remains the same.”

The reports that Washington would relax its preconditions followed an April 7 trilateral meeting in Washington among Glyn Davies, U.S. special representative for North Korea policy, and his Japanese and South Korean counterparts.

Washington has negotiated bilaterally with North Korea in the past but also together with China, Japan, Russia, and South Korea as part of the so-called six-party talks.

Those talks began in 2003 with the goal of dismantling North Korea’s nuclear program. The multilateral negotiations were held intermittently until North Korea announced in April 2009 that it would no longer participate.

Davies also met with his Chinese counterpart, Wu Dawei, in New York on April 14-15 and in Washington on April 18. In addition to hosting the six-party talks, China has the strongest ties to North Korea of the parties involved in the negotiations.

Last June, Davies said Washington’s current strategy for dealing with North Korea’s nuclear program involves coordinating with partner countries in the region so that they speak with “one voice” before negotiating with Pyongyang on denuclearization. (See ACT, July/August 2013.)

In an April 15 statement, the State Department said that the United States and China “agree on the fundamental importance of a denuclearized North Korea” and that the countries will continue to work together peacefully to achieve this goal.

After the April 18 meeting, Wu said that Washington and Beijing have “narrowed the differences” regarding the resumption of the six-party talks and the North Korean situation.

North Korea said it is considering a new type of nuclear test, but did not provide any details on the nature of the test or the date.

Progress Slow on Landmine Ban

Jefferson Morley

Fifteen years after the global Mine Ban Treaty entered into force, many countries plagued with explosives are struggling to meet their commitments to survey and clear contaminated areas.

After the latest meeting of the parties to the treaty in Geneva in April, 27 countries are seeking or have obtained extensions on their obligations under the treaty, according to the treaty’s implementation support unit. That is one fewer than the number of countries that have announced completion of their efforts to clear their land of buried munitions.

Under Article 5 of the treaty, states are required to clear all their landmine-affected areas within 10 years.

The states that have joined the treaty will meet June 23-27 in Mozambique to assess past progress and future challenges. The International Campaign to Ban Landmines says the number of states requesting extensions is now “alarmingly high.”

Demining in a War Zone

Three countries now seeking extensions—Eritrea, Yemen, and Zimbabwe—illustrate the challenges facing the effort to rid the world of anti-personnel mines and cluster munitions.

In its extension request, Yemen’s National Mine Action Committee cited conditions of civil war, as well as money woes and inhospitable desert terrain, in requesting a five-year extension. Yemen still has at least 107 contaminated areas covering eight square kilometers, and 338 square kilometers of suspected hazardous territory that has yet to be evaluated, according to the committee.

Fighting between the Yemeni army and al Qaeda groups in 2011 in the governorates of Abyan, Sa’ada, Hajjah, Sana’a, and Amran has created a need for “survey operations to identify the extent of contamination. Successive conflicts have presented new and unexpected challenges with a resultant new and increased demand for mine action activities,” the committee stated.

The government’s Republican Guard laid thousands of landmines in Sana’a in 2011 in violation of the treaty, according to Human Rights Watch. Yemen has admitted the treaty violation, attributing it to ousted President Ali Abdullah Saleh. Yemen says the jihadist forces also have planted homemade anti-personnel landmines.

In the first nine months of 2013, Yemen’s demining authority reported seven accidents that killed seven people and injured nine others.

Eritrea’s Ordeal

Colonial occupation, civil war, and conflict with neighboring Ethiopia have left Eritrea with large swaths of territory contaminated with landmines. In its request for a five-year extension, the Eritrea Demining Authority claimed it had cleared 287 contaminated areas covering 74 square kilometers in the past three years. Nonetheless, the authority says Eritrea still has 434 areas covering 33.5 square kilometers that need to be resurveyed.

The victims of landmines are mostly residents of rural areas where children often herd animals, according to the authority. Nine people have been reported killed and 43 injured by landmines since 2011. Eighty percent of the victims were under 18 years of age.

Lack of funding is likely to continue to impede Eritrea’s efforts, according to the International Campaign to Ban Landmines. The country says its projected costs for the extension period will amount to $7.2 million, all to be raised nationally. In its extension request, Eritrea said it has stopped accepting international aid because its demining efforts are “more efficient” without assistance. For the last two years, Eritrea’s national contribution has been only $250,000.

Zimbabwe is requesting a three-year extension, the fourth extension it has sought since 2008. The country has 209 square kilometers of minefields that need to be cleared, according to the request from the Zimbabwean Mine Action Centre.

Zimbabwe received $1.7 million in international financial assistance for demining in 2013, the first time the country has received outside help since 1999, according to the International Campaign to Ban Landmines. Economic sanctions against the government of Robert Mugabe have blocked the country’s access to international institutions.

U.S. Position Under Review

The United States is not a party to the treaty, but U.S. policy toward landmines has been “under review” since 2009. In recent weeks, some observers have said they believe a decision is near.

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), a supporter of the treaty, has made a series of floor speeches this year urging the Obama administration to endorse the pact.

“If landmines were littering this country—in schoolyards, along roads, in corn fields, in our national parks—and hundreds of American children were being crippled…how long would it take before the White House sent the Mine Ban Treaty to the Senate for ratification?” Leahy asked in an April 9 statement.

On March 6, Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the House Armed Services Committee that he considered self-destructing landmines to be “an important tool” in the U.S. arsenal. The U.S. position is that self-destructing mines are more humane, but they are prohibited by the Mine Ban Treaty.

Dempsey said “the currency of the threat on the Korean peninsula” was a factor in his assessment.

Fifteen years after the global pact against landmines took effect, war, lack of funds, and politics hinder some efforts to clear anti-personnel

explosives.

Israel Indicates Support for CTBT

Daryl G. Kimball

With entry into force of the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) still awaiting ratification by eight key states, officials from one of those states, Israel, have recently signaled strong support for the treaty.

Following a visit to Israel by Lassina Zerbo, executive secretary of the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO), sources close to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he considers the CTBT to be “very significant,” is “proud” to have signed the treaty in 1996, and “has never had a problem with the CTBT,” according to a March 19 report in The Times of Israel.

Zerbo, making his first visit to Israel since becoming executive secretary last year, held talks with Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz, and Shaul Chorev, head of the Israel Atomic Energy Commission.

While attending an April 10-11 meeting of an experts group in Stockholm to discuss options for bringing the CTBT into force, Zerbo told Arms Control Today that his Israeli interlocutors were “very positive” about the treaty. He said he believes that “Israel could be the next” state among the eight key holdouts to ratify the treaty.

Zerbo reported on his visit to Israel during the meeting with the experts group. The CTBTO established the group last September to promote the objectives of the CTBT and help secure its entry into force. Its 18 members include current and former prime ministers, foreign ministers, defense ministers, and other senior diplomatic leaders.

“We have an action plan that helpfully is differentiated for the nature of the challenges of the eight countries which we will be principally focusing on. We all have a reinforced obligation to see that the de facto moratorium becomes a legally binding ban to outlaw these dreadful tests,” said group member and former UK defense secretary Des Browne in an April 11 interview following the Stockholm meeting. The group is scheduled to meet again this fall in Hungary.

Meanwhile, in an address on the CTBT delivered in Hiroshima, Japan, on April 15, Rose Gottemoeller, U.S. undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, said the CTBT is “a key part” of leading the nuclear-weapon states “toward a world of diminished reliance on nuclear weapons, reduced nuclear competition, and eventual nuclear disarmament.”

Regarding U.S. efforts on ratification, Gottemoeller noted that “it has been a long time since the CTBT was on the front pages of U.S. newspapers” and the Obama administration therefore “need[s] time to educate the public and Congress to build support for U.S. ratification.”

She said there is “no reason” that the other key states that have not ratified the treaty need to wait for U.S. action.

Also in Hiroshima, 12 countries called on the United States and other CTBT holdouts “to sign and ratify [the treaty] without delay.” The call was part of an April 12 joint statement issued at a ministerial meeting of the Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Initiative (NPDI), a group consisting of Australia, Canada, Chile, Germany, Japan, Mexico, the Netherlands, Nigeria, the Philippines, Poland, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates. At their meeting, NPDI foreign ministers were joined by Gottemoeller and Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa.

The NPDI statement urged North Korea “to refrain from further provocative actions including, among others, ballistic missile launch, nuclear test or the threat of the use of nuclear weapons.”

The North Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced March 30 that North Korea “will not rule out a new form of nuclear test to bolster up its nuclear deterrence.”

In an interview at the Stockholm meeting, former U.S. Defense Secretary William Perry said that, by banning nuclear tests, the CTBT was designed to limit nuclear competition. “We were lucky in the Cold War that that arms race did not result in nuclear catastrophe. We may not be so lucky the second time,” he warned.

Israel appears to be signaling that it is seriously considering ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

Iran Claims Progress on Nuclear Deal

Kelsey Davenport

Tehran and six world powers are near an agreement on the future of a controversial heavy-water reactor that is under construction in Iran, the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran said April 19.

Ali Akbar Salehi said that the six countries (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) had accepted Iran’s proposal to redesign the core of the heavy-water reactor at Arak. He said this would cut the production of plutonium from the reactor but still allow Iran to produce medical isotopes.

A European diplomat familiar with the negotiations said that “there has been no political decision reached about the future of the Arak reactor.” No single issue in the negotiations will be considered resolved until “all of the issues have been dealt with and agreed upon,” he said said in an April 21 e-mail to Arms Control Today.

The issue of the Arak reactor is one that Tehran and the six countries, known as the P5+1, are seeking to resolve in a comprehensive agreement over Iran’s controversial nuclear program. The parties have met three times since February. The most recent round took place April 7-9 in Vienna.

The P5+1 is concerned that Iran could use the plutonium produced by the reactor for nuclear weapons although Iran is not known to have the facilities to separate plutonium from spent fuel. Iran claims that the reactor will be used for research and the production of medical isotopes.

Iran and the P5+1 reached a first-phase agreement in November that freezes construction of the reactor for six months while a comprehensive agreement is negotiated. (See ACT, December 2013.) Iran also committed in the November agreement, known as the Joint Plan of Action, not to construct a separation facility. Implementation of the initial actions began Jan. 20 and is to last six months. (See ACT, March 2014.)

If the Arak reactor is completed as designed, experts estimate that it would contain quantities of plutonium that, when separated from the spent fuel, would be enough for about two bombs a year. Salehi said the proposed design modification would cut the plutonium production to one-fifth of what it would have been by fueling it with uranium enriched to reactor grade instead of natural uranium.

Reactors that use natural uranium are particularly well suited to plutonium production. Reactors that use enriched uranium produce plutonium that is less suitable for nuclear weapons.

Iran and the P5+1 are scheduled to meet again May 13 in Vienna to continue negotiations on the comprehensive nuclear deal.

According to the joint statement issued by EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, the lead negotiator for the P5+1, and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif at the end of the last round of talks on April 9, the parties will move to the “next phase in the negotiations.” Negotiators have held “substantive and detailed discussions” on all of the issues that will be covered in the deal and will now begin to “bridge the gaps” and “work on the concrete elements” of the comprehensive deal, the statement said. (See ACT, April 2014.)

U.S. officials have said they hope to reach a final deal by July 20, when the first-phase agreement comes to an end. If an agreement is not reached, the interim deal can be extended by mutual consent of the two sides.

Meanwhile, the latest International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report on implementation of the first-phase agreement found that Iran is continuing to follow through on its commitments.

In January, the IAEA began issuing special monthly reports on Iran’s compliance with certain aspects of the November agreement. These reports are in addition to the agency’s quarterly reports on Tehran’s nuclear program.

The April 17 report confirmed that Iran had completed the dilution of half of its stockpile of 20 percent-enriched uranium to an enrichment level of less than 5 percent, the level typically used in power reactors. Iran agreed to complete the dilution within three months of the parties beginning to implement the agreement.

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said in an April 17 press briefing that following the IAEA confirmation that Iran had completed the required dilution, the Treasury Department “facilitated the release of a $450 million installment of Iran’s frozen funds.”

As part of the first-phase agreement, the P5+1 agreed that, over the six months of the deal, it would release $4.2 billion in Iranian assets that are tied up in foreign banks. Including the April installment, about $2.5 billion has already been released.

The remaining half of the 20 percent-enriched stockpile is being converted to a powder form that can be used to make fuel plates for the Tehran Research Reactor, which produces medical isotopes. Iran has until July 20 to complete this process.

The IAEA report also said that Iran has not completed a facility that will convert uranium enriched to less than 5 percent from a gas to a powder that is used to make fuel for power reactors. Under the first phase of the deal, Iran committed to convert all of the reactor-grade enriched uranium gas it produced over the course of the six months of the agreement to a powder form.

According to the IAEA’s November quarterly report, the facility was to begin operations in December. But Iran did not complete the facility in time to begin operations by that date. According to the April 17 report, Tehran informed the IAEA that the facility would be commissioned on April 9, but then put off commissioning the plant. The report said that Tehran did not give the agency a new date for the beginning of operations.

The first-phase agreement does not specify a date by which Iran must begin operating the facility.

At the April 17 press briefing, Harf said that, “to this point, all sides have kept the commitments” made in the Joint Plan of Action.

A senior Iranian official said Tehran and six world powers are near an agreement on the future of a controversial heavy-water reactor in Iran.

Keep the Middle East Nuclear Test Free

Daryl G. Kimball

Proliferation prevention requires a comprehensive approach, involving multiple barriers against the acquisition and further development of nuclear weapons. Nowhere is this more apparent and necessary than the Middle East, which already has one undeclared nuclear-armed state—Israel—and another state with the capacity to build nuclear weapons if it were to choose to do so—Iran.

As top diplomats from Iran and the P5+1 states (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) continue to negotiate a comprehensive solution to ensure that Iran’s nuclear program will be exclusively peaceful, their formula must address a wide range of potential proliferation pathways. Appropriately, most attention has been focused on significantly scaling back Tehran’s capacity to produce bomb material (highly enriched uranium and plutonium) and improving the capacity of the international community to detect and respond to any effort by Iran to build nuclear weapons.

But if the agreement between Iran and the P5+1 is to be truly comprehensive, Iran’s leaders should also be called on and should agree to promptly ratify the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), which bans all nuclear test explosions and has established a highly sensitive global monitoring system to detect and deter violations. Without the option to conduct nuclear explosive tests, Iran could not gain the necessary confidence in the advanced, smaller-warhead designs it would need for use on ballistic missiles.

In the mid-1990s, Iran was an active and constructive participant in multilateral CTBT negotiations. Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Velayati put forward a compromise draft text that helped bridge differences at a key juncture in the talks. On Sept. 24, 1996, Iran became one of the original signatories to the treaty.

Today, Iranian ratification of the treaty, as well as a decision to allow the transmittal of data from international monitoring stations on its territory to the International Data Center in Vienna, would help reduce concerns about Tehran’s nuclear intentions and make it far more difficult for Iran to build a sophisticated nuclear arsenal.

On the other hand, the continued failure by Iran to ratify the CTBT would raise further questions about the nature of its sensitive nuclear activities, which will likely remain under investigation by the International Atomic Energy Agency after Iran’s talks with the P5+1 are due to conclude. Iran’s leaders should want to ratify the CTBT to help distinguish their country from North Korea, which for now is the only state that openly threatens to conduct additional nuclear tests.

States not involved in the Iran nuclear talks need to reinforce the importance of the CTBT to Tehran, which is the current chair of the 120-member Non-Aligned Movement (NAM). Leaders of NAM states need to do their part by calling on Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to ratify the treaty. They can start at this month’s meeting at the United Nations of the Preparatory Committee for the 2015 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty Review Conference.

Iran is one of eight key holdout states that must ratify the treaty to trigger its entry into force. Action by other countries on that list, which includes China, Egypt, Israel, and the United States, is overdue.

U.S. leadership on the CTBT is critical. The path to approval by the U.S. Senate is a tough climb, but is achievable with a major push. President Barack Obama has made several strong statements of support, but the White House has done little beyond that to begin the ascent.

Once the CTBT is in force, established nuclear-weapon states, including China and Russia, would not be able to proof-test new nuclear warhead designs, and on-site inspections would be available to enforce compliance.

With no shortage of conflict and hostility in the Middle East, ratification of the CTBT by key states in the region—Egypt, Iran, and Israel—could be a game changer. It would accelerate CTBT entry into force and help create the conditions necessary for the realization of a Middle East zone free of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction, the long-sought goal of Egypt, other Arab states, and Iran.

Like Iran, Israel has signed but has not yet ratified the CTBT. Israeli ratification would bring that country closer to the nuclear nonproliferation mainstream and put pressure on other states in the region to follow suit.

Following a mid-March visit to Jerusalem by Lassina Zerbo, executive secretary of the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization, sources close to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told The Times of Israel that Israel considers the CTBT to be “very significant,” in part because of its extremely robust, global nuclear test monitoring system. The report said Netanyahu is “proud” to have signed it and “has never had a problem with the CTBT.”

Leaders in Iran, Israel, and other key countries should all take positive action on the CTBT. Doing so is clearly in their respective national interests and would strengthen the beleaguered global nuclear nonproliferation regime at a critical time. ACT

Proliferation prevention requires a comprehensive approach, involving multiple barriers against the acquisition and further development of nuclear weapons. Nowhere is this more apparent and necessary than the Middle East, which already has one undeclared nuclear-armed state—Israel—and another state with the capacity to build nuclear weapons if it were to choose to do so—Iran.

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