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"The Arms Control Association’s work is an important resource to legislators and policymakers when contemplating a new policy direction or decision."

– General John Shalikashvili
former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
October 2015
Edition Date: 
Thursday, October 1, 2015
Cover Image: 

China Urges New Talks With North Korea

October 2015

By Kelsey Davenport

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, shown in a September 22 photo, gave a September 19 speech in which he called for resumption of nuclear negotiations with North Korea by China and four other countries. (Photo credit: Matt Mills McKnight-Pool/Getty Images)On the 10th anniversary of North Korea’s commitment to give up its nuclear weapons, China last month called for the resumption of nuclear negotiations with Pyongyang based on a 2005 multilateral agreement.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said in a Sept. 19 speech that although much has changed since 2005, if the agreement’s “common understandings can be gradually implemented, not only can we achieve the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, but also open up new prospects for peace and development of Northeast Asia.” China chaired the talks that led to the 2005 agreement.

The talks, which also included Japan, Russia, South Korea, and the United States, led to a joint statement on Sept. 19, 2005, that included a commitment by North Korea to dismantle its nuclear weapons. In return, the five other countries were to work to strengthen economic ties with Pyongyang and explore security cooperation in Northeast Asia.

Wang’s speech in Beijing to a group of experts and officials from countries involved in the talks came about a week after North Korea’s announcement that a reactor it had used in the past to produce plutonium for nuclear weapons is fully operational again. North Korea is believed to have enough plutonium for six to eight nuclear weapons and may have produced highly enriched uranium for additional warheads.

In carrying out the 2005 agreement, North Korea disabled the reactor it used to produce plutonium for nuclear weapons in 2007 and destroyed the reactor’s cooling tower in 2008. But before the 2005 agreement was fully implemented, North Korea withdrew from the process.

Since the so-called six-party talks fell apart in 2009, North Korea has conducted two nuclear tests and restarted a heavy-water reactor that produces weapons-grade plutonium. (See ACT, October 2013.)

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Sept. 16, shortly after Pyongyang’s announcement about the reactor, that if North Korea does not refrain from “irresponsible provocations that aggravate regional concerns,” it will face “severe consequences.”

In his speech, Wang called on all the countries that were part of the six-party talks to “build up consensus” and create the necessary conditions for the resumption of the negotiations. Specifically, he said the parties should reaffirm the principles of the 2005 joint statement, jointly explore ways to “address security concerns of relevant parties” on the Korean peninsula, and refrain from attempts to disrupt the stability of Northeast Asia.

Meanwhile, North Korea announced in mid-September that it may launch a satellite into orbit on Oct. 10 to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the founding of the Workers’ Party of Korea. Pyongyang’s state-run Korean Central News Agency reported that the director of North Korea’s National Aerospace Development Administration said that it was pushing toward the “final phase” in the development of a “new earth observation satellite” in honor of the anniversary.

North Korea successfully launched a satellite on its Unha-3 launch vehicle for the first time in December 2012 after a failed attempt in April of that year. (See ACT, January/February 2013.) Most experts say if North Korea launched another satellite, it would likely use the Unha-3, as Pyongyang has not publicly displayed another model.

Because of their applicability to ballistic missile development, North Korean satellite launches are prohibited under UN Security Council resolutions.

The Sohae Satellite Launching Station, the site of the 2012 launches, received upgrades last year that would allow it to accommodate rockets even larger than the Unha-3. (See ACT, November 2014.) But satellite imagery from last month did not give any indication that the North Koreans were preparing for a launch, according to an imagery analysis by Jack Liu and Joseph Bermudez.

In a Sept. 15 article for 38 North, an online publication of the U.S.–Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University, Liu and Bermudez concluded that, in the five weeks between the time the images were taken and Oct. 10, there was “possibly sufficient time for the North to prepare for a launch if Pyongyang follows past practices and procedures.” The two analysts said this would be possible only if North Korea already had begun to prepare the satellite launch vehicle at the launch pad. Concealment measures make it difficult to observe if this process has begun, Liu and Bermudez said.

They wrote that if North Korea follows “past practice,” increased activity at the site, including filling up the buildings that hold propellant for the launch, would be expected. Satellites would likely be able to detect such activity.

China called for the resumption of nuclear negotiations with Pyongyang based on a 2005 agreement to denuclearize North Korea.

Pope Calls for Nuclear Weapons Ban

October 2015

By Daryl G. Kimball

In his September 25 address to the UN General Assembly, Pope Francis said there is an “urgent need to work for a world free of nuclear weapons.” (Photo credit: Andrew Renneisen/Getty Images)In his first-ever address to the UN General Assembly on Sept. 24, Pope Francis delivered a powerful denunciation of nuclear deterrence and reiterated the Holy See’s call for action to eliminate the threats posed by nuclear weapons.

“An ethics and a law based on the threat of mutual destruction and possibly the destruction of all mankind are self-contradictory and an affront to the entire framework of the United Nations,” he said.

“There is urgent need to work for a world free of nuclear weapons, in full application of the [nuclear] Nonproliferation Treaty [NPT], in letter and spirit, with the goal of a complete prohibition of these weapons,” he said.

The pontiff’s remarks to the General Assembly follow his written statement delivered to a December 2014 conference in Vienna on the humanitarian impacts of nuclear weapons use. In that speech, he reiterated the Roman Catholic Church’s call for the goal of a world free of nuclear weapons, deplored excessive spending on nuclear weapons, and urged world leaders to renew action on nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation. (See ACT, January/February 2015.)

In more recent statements, Vatican officials have expanded on these themes, arguing that precisely because of the growing tensions among nuclear-armed countries and the risk that additional states may acquire nuclear weapons, there must be renewed action for global nuclear arms control and disarmament.

In a statement delivered Sept. 14 to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) General Conference, Archbishop Paul Gallagher, the Vatican’s secretary for relations with states, said, “The Holy See has no illusion about the challenges involved in achieving a world free of nuclear weapons.”

Although “[p]rogress has been made” through the NPT, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), New START, and “unilateral initiatives and other measures,” those efforts “are limited, insufficient, and often frozen in space and time,” he said.

The NPT review conference earlier this year failed to reach agreement on an action plan to update specific commitments on disarmament and nonproliferation goals, due in part to differences among states in the Middle East on convening a conference to discuss a zone free of weapons of mass destruction and in part to the reluctance of some nuclear-armed states to commit to faster action on nuclear disarmament. (See ACT, June 2015.)

“Precisely because of growing tensions, the nuclear powers must renew arms control and disarmament processes,” Gallagher said in his remarks to the IAEA conference. Gallagher highlighted the need for “real efforts toward facilitating the entry into force of the CTBT, which represents the best hope of stemming nuclear proliferation and is a key to progress on nuclear disarmament.”

In Francis’ UN address, he also welcomed the July 14 nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers. He described the agreement as “proof of the potential of political good will and of law, exercised with sincerity, patience, and constancy. I express my hope that this agreement will be lasting and efficacious and bring forth the desired fruits with the cooperation of all the parties involved.”

In remarks at a Sept. 17 forum in Washington, ahead of the pope’s U.S. visit to that city, his first stop in the United States, Bishop Oscar Cantu, chairman of the Committee on International Justice and Peace of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said that the Vatican’s recent, higher-profile stance on nuclear weapons issues builds on long-standing Catholic teaching on the immorality of nuclear weapons.

Cantu noted that just months after Washington and Moscow narrowly averted nuclear war during the Cuban missile crisis, Pope John XXIII delivered an April 1963 encyclical letter, “Pacem in Terris.”

In that letter, John also argued, “Nuclear weapons must be banned. A general agreement must be reached on a suitable disarmament program, with an effective system of mutual control.” Four months later, the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Soviet Union concluded the Limited Test Ban Treaty.

Cantu explained that the Catholic Church’s view of the immorality of the use and the threat of use of nuclear weapons is underpinned by several features of nuclear weapons: they do not discriminate between combatants and civilians, they can produce catastrophic global effects, and they achieve a very low probability of success. Cantu noted Pope Benedict XVI’s January 1, 2006, statement that, “[i]n a nuclear war, there would be no victors, only victims.”

Correction: The original online version of this article misidentified the pope who issued the encyclical letter, “Pacem in Terris.” It was John XXIII.


In his address to the UN General Assembly, Pope Francis denounced nuclear deterrence and called for action to rid the world of nuclear weapons.

States Denounce Cluster Munitions Use

October 2015

By Jefferson Morley

A man in the northern Syrian town of Taftanaz grasps a cluster bomb casing on November 9, 2012. (Photo credit: Philippe Desmazes /AFP/Getty Images)In response to reports of cluster munition attacks in conflicts around the world, scores of countries supporting the global ban on the explosive weapons categorically condemned their use in a declaration issued Sept. 11 in Dubrovnik, Croatia.

“We are deeply concerned by any and all allegations, reports or documented evidence of the use of cluster munitions, including in Cambodia, Libya, Myanmar, South Sudan, Sudan, Syrian Arab Republic, Ukraine and Yemen,” said the parties to the Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM). “We condemn any use of cluster munitions by any actor.”

The 95 states-parties to the CCM, along with 23 signatory nations and numerous civil society groups, met Sept. 7-11 to review and assess the accomplishments of the treaty. The Dubrovnik meeting was the first review conference under the treaty, which entered into force on August 1, 2010. The CCM bans the possession and use of munitions that eject explosive bomblets designed to kill people and destroy vehicles.        

For advocates of a cluster munitions ban, the consensus declaration threw a spotlight on the policy of the U.S. government, which is destroying its cluster munitions stockpiles but has not renounced their use. The United States, which has not signed the CCM, is currently supporting the Saudi-led military campaign in Yemen, where Human Rights Watch has documented the repeated use of U.S.-manufactured cluster munitions. “Although the evidence is not definitive, several factors indicate that the Saudi-led coalition carried out the seven attacks,” the nongovernmental group stated in an Aug. 26 report. The attacks involving U.S.-made munitions have killed or wounded “dozens of civilians” since April, according to the group.

Representatives of Australia, Canada, and the United Kingdom—all U.S. military allies—asked for modification of the declaration’s categorical condemnation of all cluster munitions use. The wording, Canada said, “poses problems for States Parties who undertake military cooperation and operations with non-Parties, which the Convention permits us to do.” Article 21 of the CCM states that parties to the treaty “may engage in military cooperation and operations with States not party to this Convention that might engage in activities prohibited to a State Party.”

“The proposed changes also seem driven by a desire to create space—political and legal space—for the United States to use cluster munitions in the future,” said a Sept. 8 statement from Human Rights Watch on behalf of the Cluster Munition Coalition..

Thomas Nash of Article 36, a UK nongovernmental organization, said the “bizarre and isolated legal contortions by the UK, together with Australia and Canada, were hopelessly out of step with the mood and determination of the Review Conference to prevent any further use of cluster munitions by any actor.”

After the three countries and Lithuania expressed concerns, the unmodified declaration was approved by acclamation.

Signs of Progress

Many representatives of the 117 countries that have signed or ratified the CCM hailed the treaty for exceeding expectations born on its entry into force five years ago.

“Eighty percent of reported cluster munition stockpiles have already been destroyed,” Steffen Kongstad of Norway said, with “most states-parties achieving their targets much faster and at a significantly lower cost than some experts kept insisting on some years ago.”

Ambassador Jorge Lomónaco of Mexico congratulated Canada, Guinea, Guyana, Iceland, Palestine, Paraguay, Rwanda, Slovakia, and South Africa for joining the CCM in the past year. Their accession, he said, demonstrated “the vitality and strength of the regime that prohibits the use of these indiscriminate and inhuman weapons.”

Rodolfo Benítez Verson, chief of the Cuban delegation to the conference, announced Sept. 8 that his government was taking steps to join the treaty “shortly.”

“Today I can inform this Conference that Cuba is carrying out the required constitutional procedures for the accession of our country to the Convention on Cluster Munitions,” Benítez Verson said to applause.

The change comes as Washington and Havana are seeking to normalize long-frozen diplomatic relations. In past years, Cuba had declined to join the cluster munitions ban because it does not forbid U.S.-made munitions that are equipped with self-destruction and self-deactivation mechanisms, an exception that Havana said favored developed countries at the expense of poorer countries. In Dubrovnik, Benítez Verson repeated Cuban concerns about the “dangerous” language of the treaty’s Article 21, which permits CCM parties to the treaty to engage in military operations with countries that are not parties. He said Cuba will continue to press its views when it becomes a state-party to the treaty.

Work to Do

Nguyen Trung Thanh of Vietnam, attending as an observer, said his country could not afford to take on the treaty’s obligations, although Vietnam is one of the countries most contaminated with cluster munitions.

“In the best scenario,” he said, the job of clearing the munitions from 6.6 million hectares (16 million acres) of contaminated Vietnamese land and then destroying the weapons would require “more than a hundred years” and “many billions of dollars.”

Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Vatican representative to the United Nations, called on CCM parties “to find a fair and equitable model” to fund the treaty’s implementation.

Correction: The original online version of this article erroneously attributed a quotation to the Cluster Munition Monitor. The source of the quotation is a Sept. 8 statement from Human Rights Watch on behalf of the Cluster Munition Coalition.

Reports from Ukraine, Yemen, and other countries with civil conflicts prompted parties to the 2010 global ban on deadly explosives to condemn their use.

U.S. Nuclear Weapons Funding in Limbo

October 2015

By Kingston Reif

Defense Secretary Ash Carter delivers remarks at an Air Force Association conference in National Harbor, Md., on September 16. He warned of the impact on U.S. military forces if Congress passes a spending bill that does not allow military funding to rise above current levels. (Photo credit: Senior Master Sgt. Adrian Cadiz/U.S. Air Force)Congress failed to pass any fresh appropriations bills for fiscal year 2016, raising questions about whether the Defense and Energy departments can carry out the nuclear weapons sustainment and modernization activities they have planned for the year.

In the fiscal year 2016 budget request, the Obama administration requested a major funding hike above the previous fiscal year for programs to sustain and to rebuild nuclear-armed missiles, submarines, and bombers and their associated nuclear warheads and supporting infrastructure. (See ACT, March 2015.) If these programs are not funded at the requested levels, the result could be schedule delays and cost increases.

Pentagon leaders already are issuing warnings about the danger to U.S. security if Congress passes a year-long continuing resolution that would extend the previous year’s funding levels.

“[T]he longer a continuing resolution is, the worse it becomes, eventually resulting in a $38 billion deficit in resources for our military if Congress chooses to pursue this path for a full year,” Defense Secretary Ash Carter said on Sept. 16 at the Air Force Association’s annual conference in National Harbor, Md.

Overall, the administration requested $561 billion for national defense in fiscal year 2016, which includes the Defense Department’s regular budget activities and the Energy Department’s nuclear weapons programs. This spending proposal is roughly $38 billion above the cap in the 2011 Budget Control Act and $40 billion above the fiscal year 2015 enacted level.

The impact of a year-long continuing resolution on the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), a semiautonomous agency of the Energy Department, would depend on whether Congress makes an exception from the general no-increase constraints of a continuing resolution so that nuclear weapons funding can increase above the fiscal year 2015 level, a congressional staffer told Arms Control Today in a Sept. 16 e-mail.

The NNSA has been successful in seeking such an exception in the past, the staffer said.

As Arms Control Today went to press, Congress appeared poised to approve a short-term continuing resolution that would extend the previous year’s funding levels for a few months, buying time to negotiate new funding levels for fiscal year 2016 later this year.

In fiscal year 2015, Congress passed a continuing resolution for the first three and a half months of the year, followed by the passage last December of a $1.1 trillion conglomeration of 12 appropriations bills, known as an omnibus appropriations bill. The omnibus bill provided new funding for Defense and Energy department programs at roughly the level of the administration’s fiscal year 2015 request. (See ACT, January/February 2015.)

The passage of higher funding levels in fiscal year 2016 would likely require changing the spending caps set by Congress in the Budget Control Act. But Republicans and Democrats have yet to reach agreement on a total budget for discretionary domestic and military spending.

If Congress fails to pass new funding after a short-term continuing resolution, it could opt to pass a continuing resolution for all of fiscal year 2016.

Cruise Missile Delay Possible

A continuing resolution could have a significant impact on the administration’s plan to buy a fleet of new nuclear-capable cruise missiles. (See ACT, June 2015.)

The Obama administration’s fiscal year 2016 budget request proposed to markedly increase spending to accelerate by two years the development of the long-range standoff missile and the modified warhead that it would carry, partially reversing the fiscal year 2015 proposal to delay development of both by three years. (See ACT, March 2015.

Air-launched cruise missiles are carried by the B-52 long-range bomber and can attack targets at great distances. 

The NNSA is requesting $195 million to begin refurbishing the existing cruise missile warhead that would be delivered by the new missile. That is an increase of $186 million above the fiscal year 2015 appropriation of $9.4 million.

The Air Force is seeking $36.6 million in fiscal year 2016 for research and development for a long-range standoff weapon, more than 10 times as much as the $3.4 million that Congress appropriated for fiscal year 2015.

Impact Debated

In a Sept. 17 e-mail to Arms Control Today, NNSA spokeswoman Michelle Laver said that unless the NNSA receives a special waiver from Congress to begin funding the warhead refurbishment at the requested fiscal year 2016 level right at the beginning of the year, even a short-term continuing resolution would “delay development and engineering work” on the warhead refurbishment and “coordination activities with the Air Force” and would “result in a slip in the overall schedule including first production.” 

But the congressional staffer was skeptical of the NNSA’s warning, which the NNSA has conveyed to Congress. “I don’t think anyone believes” that a short-term continuing resolution and associated delay to the program “is problematic,” he said.

The Air Force had no specific comment on the impact of a continuing resolution on the development of the new cruise missile. “It is hard to say exactly which programs will be affected until we see the language” of the continuing resolution, Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek said in a Sept. 17 e-mail.

In their respective fiscal year 2016 defense appropriations bills, the Senate and House appropriations committees approved funding for the new missile at levels below the administration’s $36.6 million request. Senate appropriators provided $14.1 million while the House provided $27.5 million. According to the reports accompanying the Senate and House versions of the bills, the appropriators approved the smaller amounts because they believed that the Air Force requested more money than it could spend on the program in fiscal year 2016, not because of a lack of faith in the program.

Congress failed to pass any new appropriations bills for fiscal year 2016, raising questions about whether the United States can carry out the nuclear weapons activities planned for the year.

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