“For half a century, ACA has been providing the world … with advocacy, analysis, and awareness on some of the most critical topics of international peace and security, including on how to achieve our common, shared goal of a world free of nuclear weapons.”

– Izumi Nakamitsu
UN High Representative for Disarmament Affairs
June 2, 2022
March 2016
Edition Date: 
Thursday, March 3, 2016
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Getting to Know Gabriele Kraatz-Wadsack

March 2016

Interviewed by Daniel Horner

36_GTK.jpg“Getting to Know” is an occasional series that introduces Arms Control Today readers to interesting people active in the world of arms control.

Gabriele Kraatz-Wadsack started out studying veterinary medicine, specializing in microbiology, and ended her career as a senior official with the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs, from which she retired last year. She led numerous monitoring and verification inspection missions in Iraq in the 1990s, worked on bioterrorism prevention and response at the Robert Koch Institute in Berlin, and served as scientific and policy adviser on disarmament and nonproliferation issues at the German Federal Foreign Office.

Kraatz-Wadsack spoke to Arms Control Today on Feb. 11 from her home in New York. The interview, which was conducted by Daniel Horner, has been edited for length and clarity.

As you pursued your studies, did you think about arms control, international security issues as something of interest, or was it essentially a fluke of your career path that you ended up this way?

Well, I’m always a very curious person. So I think the first step was that while I studied veterinary medicine, my professor in microbiology said I should continue to do my dissertation in microbiology. And then I joined the armed forces, which was definitely not in my plan for life originally. But there was interesting work in microbiology, and I joined the military. And that linked me more into the defense area. And then it’s the [field of] arms control and disarmament. It was step by step, more by chance than a planned career. You have setbacks, but I think it’s really rewarding work.

During the inspections in Iraq, did you encounter any particular difficulties from the Iraqis or from your colleagues or from anyone else because you’re a woman?

Never, no. This was interesting to me as well. Iraq at that time was very secular. Some of my counterparts were women, and the main person in the biological weapons program was a woman. She, Dr. Rihab Taha, was the one I met most of the time, and she was the one in charge for the biological weapons program. At least, that’s what the Iraqis told us. But she was always there, and she was explaining how she produced anthrax and botulinum toxin. I was chief inspector, and my Iraqi counterparts treated me normally, neutrally, I would say. 

How would biological weapons inspections that are conducted today be similar to or different from the ones that you carried out 20 years ago, in terms of technology or training or anything else?

Definitely they would be different. [In Iraq] we had a special mandate [under UN Security Council resolutions]—one was disarmament, and one was to establish ongoing monitoring and verification. It was a very robust mandate, for anywhere, anytime, intrusive [inspections]. The mandate was kind of exceptional, part of a cease-fire resolution.

Nowadays, we have a different environment. There is improvement of technology. There are better tools for detection and enhanced analytical methods. You have advanced overhead imagery to support inspections. Much is different than it was in the early 1990s. But also important are the human skills and training.

The human skills as an inspector on the ground to conduct on-site inspections are the most crucial. We had a special training for hundreds of experts to conduct inspections for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. The training was not to improve their technical expertise, but to add additional skills.

Another development relates to the capabilities and possible role of international organizations such as the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. In the early 1990s, we didn’t have a chemical-designated inspectorate. So today, you have new mandates for international organizations; you have new international organizations; you have more involvement of international organizations, which also add to international inspection experience. They have accumulated vast experience and expertise, which was not in place in the early 1990s. We really had to do it from scratch in all areas. It was not known. The only entity that had inspection experience was the International Atomic Energy Agency. So at that time, we had to be very innovative and pragmatic, and we needed to know and understand the limits of what could be done.

The former UN official talks about her experiences as a biological weapons inspector in Iraq and her early days as a student of veterinary medicine.  

A ‘Legal Gap’? Nuclear Weapons Under International Law

March 2016

By Gro Nystuen and Kjølv Egeland

02_NystuenEgeland.jpgOver the past five years, the international community has devoted attention to the humanitarian, environmental, and developmental consequences of nuclear weapons detonations. 

The final document of the 2010 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference referred for the first time in NPT history to the “catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons” and reaffirmed the need “for all States at all times to comply with applicable international law, including international humanitarian law.”1

The inclusion of this language in the 2010 document was perhaps not particularly significant in itself, as it stated the obvious. Rather, its significance lay in the initiative it licensed. Arguing that the humanitarian dimension required increased attention, the Norwegian government invited all interested states and organizations to a conference on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons in Oslo in March 2013. The next year, the Mexican and Austrian governments organized follow-up conferences in Nayarit and Vienna, respectively. Attracting more government delegations than the NPT Preparatory Committee meetings in 2013 and 2014, the series of humanitarian impact conferences appears to have supplied a meeting format that was in demand.

At the conclusion of the third and hitherto last of these conferences, the Austrian hosts submitted a document calling on states and other stakeholders to “fill the legal gap for the prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons.”2 A few months later, the Austrian government announced that this “Austrian Pledge” would be called the “Humanitarian Pledge,” thus implying a broader ownership of the document. More than 120 states have now formally endorsed it.

One might ask what exactly this legal gap is. Although some claim that there is a gap that should be filled by a new legal instrument prohibiting the use and possession of nuclear weapons, others argue that there is no legal gap.3 Some have suggested that the legal gap is not one of substantive law but rather a “compliance gap.”4

This article seeks to bring some clarity to the question of a potential legal gap, investigating the legality of the possession and use of nuclear weapons under international humanitarian law and disarmament law. It concludes that there is a substantive legal gap because unlike chemical and biological weapons—the other categories of nonconventional weapons—nuclear weapons are not explicitly and comprehensively prohibited. Given the magnitude of the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons, this could be considered a paradox.5

The Use of Force

The primary objective of the UN Charter is to “save succeeding generations from the scourge of war.” The charter forbids the use of military force against states in general, but makes exceptions for self-defense and for use of force authorized by the Security Council. These rules in the charter apply equally to all use of force against states, irrespective of weapon type. No restrictions are imposed on nuclear weapons as such.

In an advisory opinion in 1996, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) responded to the question of whether the use of nuclear weapons could be permitted under international law. The court did not succeed in giving a clear answer, but concluded that it could not rule out the lawfulness of the use of a nuclear weapon in “extreme circumstances of self defence.”6 Because every armed conflict is likely to be perceived by states as an “extreme” circumstance of self-defense, it was unclear whether the court implied that the rules governing the justification for the use of armed force in the UN Charter (jus ad bellum) might set aside the rules governing the actual conduct of hostilities (jus in bello). It seems clear that if one makes the applicability of the rules governing the conduct of warfare (international humanitarian law) dependent on whether the use of force in itself is perceived as legitimate, then the former rules will seldom be seen as applicable because states commonly perceive the enemy’s use of force as unjustified. These two regimes are therefore, as a matter of law, distinct, applying independently of each other.

Conduct of Hostilities

Regulating the conduct of war, international humanitarian law, sometimes called the laws of war or the laws of armed conflict, is arguably the most important legal regime when considering the legality of the use of nuclear weapons. The key instrument is the 1977 Additional Protocol I to the 1949 Geneva Conventions, in addition to international customary law. Several rules laid down here are of particular importance.

03_NystuenEgeland.jpgThe first is the rule of distinction. According to this rule, parties to a conflict may not “employ a method or means of combat the effects of which cannot be limited as required by this Protocol; and consequently, in each such case, are of a nature to strike military objectives and civilians or civilian objects without distinction.”7 The terror bombings of Coventry, Dresden, and Tokyo during World War II would not be permissible under this provision. The nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki would equally be ruled out.

Several weapons have been explicitly prohibited, in part or in whole, because they have been deemed impossible or difficult to use without violating the rule of distinction. This is the case with biological weapons and chemical weapons, as well as anti-personnel landmines and cluster munitions. Nuclear weapons, however, are not subject to corresponding prohibitions. Accordingly, their use is generally governed by the rules of international humanitarian law.

The second norm of particular importance is the rule of proportionality. According to this rule, even if an attack is successfully directed against military objectives, the attack might still be considered unlawful if it causes harm to civilians and civilian objects that “would be excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated.”8 Due to their fundamental properties, nuclear weapons are difficult to use without causing great collateral harm to civilians and civilian objects. Yet, that does not mean that lawful use is inconceivable. In his dissenting opinion to the ICJ’s 1996 advisory opinion, Judge Stephen Schwebel discussed scenarios in which nuclear weapons might be used lawfully. He came to the conclusion that the use of nuclear weapons “might well be lawful” if used, for example, against a submarine far out at sea.9

The third rule deals with “precautions in attack.” In the conduct of military operations, “constant care shall be taken to spare the civilian population, civilians and civilian objects.”10 For example, according to this rule, one must take “all feasible precautions” with a view to minimizing “incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians and damage to civilian objects.”11 In itself, this requirement does not explicitly rule out use of a nuclear weapon. As the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) points out, the rule of precautions “does not imply any prohibition of specific weapons.”12

The fourth rule of international humanitarian law of particular importance is the prohibition on means of warfare of a nature to cause superfluous injury and unnecessary suffering. In contrast to the three rules above, which are designed to protect civilians, this fourth rule protects combatants. The first formulation of the unnecessary-suffering rule in modern international law was expressed in the 1868 St. Petersburg Declaration, which states that the “only legitimate object” of war is to “weaken the military forces of the enemy” and that this object would be “exceeded” by the use of weapons that “uselessly aggravate the sufferings of disabled men, or render their death inevitable.” The use of such weapons, so it says, would be “contrary to the laws of humanity.”

Nuclear detonations, of course, are more than just big explosions. The resulting ionizing radiation lingers for decades, thus increasing the risk of cancer. The rule on superfluous injury and unnecessary suffering contains an implicit requirement of assessing alternatives to the weapon planned for use. As legal scholar Stuart Casey-Maslen argues, “[S]hould a proposed use of nuclear weapons satisfy both the rule of distinction and the rule of proportionality, a further assessment must be made as to whether alternative, less destructive weapons might adequately fulfill the military task.”13

A fifth norm concerns the protection of the natural environment.14 It is generally prohibited for the warring parties to deploy means of warfare that cause widespread, long-term, and severe damage to the environment, although it is a matter of dispute between states whether this rule applies to nuclear weapons. France and the United Kingdom, as two nuclear-weapon states party to Additional Protocol I, have formulated reservations regarding its application to nuclear weapons.15

The rules described in the preceding paragraphs make clear that international humanitarian law would prohibit the use of nuclear weapons in almost all conceivable scenarios. For example, a tactical nuclear strike against a submarine far out at sea may not be a violation of the rule on distinction, but it could be a violation of the prohibition against superfluous suffering. Short of a specific ban on nuclear weapons, however, it is possible to argue that their use could potentially be lawful. It is theoretically possible to argue that nuclear strikes can be justified as long as the damage to civilians is not excessive in relation to the concrete, direct military advantage anticipated and there is no available alternative weapon that is less destructive.

The evidence presented at the conferences in Oslo, Nayarit, and Vienna demonstrated that the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons actually are worse than many had thought. As the ICRC and others have pointed out, this must affect how the legality of the use of nuclear weapons under international humanitarian law is assessed.16

Disarmament Law

04_NystuenEgeland.jpgContributing to a nuclear weapon-free world is a prominent aspiration of the treaties establishing nuclear-weapon-free zones.17 Covering large geographical areas and a large number of states, such zones represent an often underestimated legal and political dynamic with regard to protecting individuals and the environment against nuclear weapons. At present, more than 100 countries worldwide, covering more than 50 percent of the Earth’s surface, are parties to these treaties. In the southern hemisphere, 99 percent of the land area is part of such a zone.

These zones may be separated into three main categories: geographical zones covering uninhabited territory or areas, such as the moon or the seabed; regional zones, consisting of clusters of states or entire continents, including Latin America and the Caribbean, Africa, and subregions of Asia; and single, self-declared, nuclear-weapon-free countries. The treaty regimes on these zones generally prohibit production, receipt, storage, testing, or use of nuclear weapons, and several also contain a prohibition on dumping radioactive matter at sea or elsewhere. The zones’ potential for defusing the risk of regional nuclear arms races and decreasing the risk of nuclear weapons falling into the hands of nonstate actors is an important factor in international efforts to protect individuals and the environment from nuclear weapons.

The NPT is a global disarmament treaty that aims to prevent or at least limit the potential for use of nuclear weapons. The NPT preamble reflects a key driving force behind the treaty’s negotiation by referring to “the devastation that would be visited upon all mankind by a nuclear war and the consequent need to make every effort to avert the danger of such a war and to take measures to safeguard the security of peoples.”

Although certain scholars have questioned the importance of the NPT in curbing proliferation,18 there is general agreement among most governments that the NPT has been an effective brake on the spread of nuclear weapons. The NPT has proven less effective with regard to nuclear disarmament. As Irish Foreign Minister Charles Flanagan pointed out at the 2015 review conference, “[N]ot a single nuclear weapon has been disarmed under the NPT or as part of any multilateral process.”19

Often presented as a “grand bargain” between nuclear- and non-nuclear-weapon states, the NPT prohibits states from possessing nuclear weapons, except for the five states that had them by January 1, 1967. In exchange for their special status, these five states, like every other state-party, agreed to “pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures” for nuclear disarmament (Article VI) and to facilitate the development of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes in non-nuclear-weapon states (Article IV). Yet, in the negotiating history and the subsequent review process of the NPT, disarmament always has played second fiddle to nonproliferation. According to NATO official Michael Rühle, “At the time of the treaty’s signing…, article VI seemed of little significance. The treaty was widely understood as a freeze on the number of existing [nuclear-weapon states], not as a means of disarming them. To put it bluntly, the treaty was supposed to perpetuate nuclear inequality indefinitely (or at least until 1995), and article VI was a way of making this fact a little easier to bear.”20

This can no longer be said to be the case. In its 1996 advisory opinion, the ICJ concluded that there exists “an obligation to pursue in good faith and bring to a conclusion negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament.”21 An obligation to disarm, however, does not constitute a prohibition. Thus, although not uncontroversial, the statement of UK Prime Minister Tony Blair that the NPT “makes it absolutely clear” that the UK “has the right to possess nuclear weapons”22 is legally accurate. Comparing the NPT with the regimes on biological and chemical weapons, the most striking difference is that although the latter two contain categorical prohibitions against possession and use,23 the former does not. Given the horrific humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons detonations, this may reasonably be called a legal gap.

On top of this legal gap in substantive law comes a possible compliance gap concerning the lack of nuclear disarmament as mandated by NPT Article VI, the 1995 NPT “extension package,” and the final documents of the 2000 and 2010 review conferences. The 2010 document lays out a 64-point action plan. There is considerable debate on whether, for example, the action plan from 2010 ought to have been undertaken in the five-year review period or whether it was a long-term road map.24 NPT nuclear-weapon states such as Russia and the United States argue that the stockpile reductions they have undertaken over the last couple of decades are more than enough in terms of Article VI implementation, but others argue that full implementation of Article VI requires negotiation of “effective measures” on nuclear disarmament. Article VI applies to all NPT states-parties, thus indicating that such negotiations of effective measures should be multilateral. At the 2015 NPT Review Conference, the Mexican delegation noted that “more than 40 years after the entry into force of the NPT and 20 years after its indefinite extension, the obligation to conduct multilateral negotiations in good faith to fulfil the goal of disarmament, as provided by Article VI of the NPT, is the only one of its provisions that has not been achieved yet.”25 The South African delegation argued that the framework for implementing Article VI “must be the product of an open multilateral process.”26

In fact, the only relevant measure specifically mentioned in the NPT preamble is a comprehensive nuclear test ban.27 Accordingly, the lack of agreement on a test ban treaty was a major source of friction at the first four review conferences. The Conference on Disarmament, having failed to reach consensus, could not adopt the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), and the treaty was therefore subsequently adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1996. It has yet to enter into force, however, as it has not been ratified by several so-called Annex 2 states (the 44 states that possessed a nuclear reactor at the time of the CTBT negotiations and whose ratification, under the terms of the treaty’s Annex 2, is necessary for the treaty to enter into force), including six nuclear-armed states. Accession by the United States arguably would be a critical factor in securing support from the remaining Annex 2 states. Recent signals that the Obama administration is looking into reopening a debate on U.S. accession to the CTBT are welcome news, but it remains doubtful that the U.S. Senate can be swayed and that anything can be done before a new U.S. president takes office in January 2017.28

Concluding Remarks

A polarized debate over nuclear weapons and their legality has taken place over the past decades. Some states have asserted that international law permits the use of nuclear weapons, whereas others hold that their use constitutes a violation of international law. This debate gathered momentum with the UN General Assembly’s request for an advisory opinion by the ICJ in 1994 and the subsequent court hearings and 1996 publication of the opinion. Because the ICJ did not resolve the issue, the frontlines remained where they were, but now with the added element of each side taking the advisory opinion as evidence that it was right. This stalemate over the legal issues might have contributed to neutralizing the public debate rather than provoking public action to pressure governments for greater efforts to diminish the risk posed by nuclear weapons.

05_NystuenEgeland.jpgInternational law clearly places very heavy restrictions on nuclear weapons use. Nevertheless, there is no unequivocal and explicit rule under international law against either use or possession of such weapons. Although the two other categories of nonconventional weapons are explicitly prohibited because their use would conflict with  the requirements of international humanitarian law, the use, production, transfer, and possession of nuclear weapons are not explicitly prohibited. This may reasonably be labeled a legal gap.

The reference to this legal gap in the Humanitarian Pledge does not make it clear whether a prohibition should be separated from the process of physical elimination and, if so, which to pursue first. The question of sequencing is significant. Should prohibition precede elimination? Should elimination come first when conditions allow, with prohibition then following? Could they be pursued simultaneously, in the form of a treaty that would resemble the Chemical Weapons Convention? Should the prohibition form part of a negotiated structure of legal instruments—a formal framework that could set out an agreed sequence or foreshadow the need to agree on a sequence at the outset of the initial negotiations?

Four main approaches to nuclear disarmament feature frequently in debates in the UN General Assembly First Committee and the NPT review cycle: (1) a comprehensive nuclear weapons convention in which a single legal instrument would provide for prohibition and elimination and in which elimination would precede a prohibition, (2) a framework agreement in which different prohibitions and other obligations would be pursued independently of each other but within the same broad frame, (3) a step-by-step or building-block approach in which elimination would precede prohibition, and (4) a stand-alone ban treaty in which prohibition would precede elimination.29

Unsurprisingly, governments have different views on these approaches, depending on the country’s status under the NPT, its membership in other treaty regimes, and its military alliances. At this point, it is not clear which view will prevail. It seems safe to say, however, that the legal gap will continue to be a hotly debated topic in the months and years to come, including in the open-ended working group on “[t]aking forward multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations” that is meeting in Geneva during 2016.30


1.   2010 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, “Final Document, Volume I, Part I,” NPT/Conf.2010/50 (Vol. I), 2010, para. I(A)(v).

2.   “Pledge Presented at the Vienna Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons by Austrian Deputy Foreign Minister Michael Linhart,” n.d., http://www.bmeia.gv.at/en/european-foreign-policy/disarmament/weapons-of-mass-destruction/nuclear-weapons-and-nuclear-terrorism/vienna-conference-on-the-humanitarian-impact-of-nuclear-weapons/chairs-summary/.

3.   See Frank A. Rose, opening statement to the 2015 UN General Assembly First Committee, October 12, 2015, http://reachingcriticalwill.org/images/documents/Disarmament-fora/1com/1com15/statements/12October_USA.pdf.

4.   John Burroughs and Peter Weiss, “Legal Gap or Compliance Gap?” Arms Control Today, October 2015.

5.   For a more detailed treatment of the legal issues addressed in this article, see Gro Nystuen, Stuart Casey-Maslen, and Annie Golden Bersagel, eds., Nuclear Weapons Under International Law (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014).

6.   International Court of Justice, “Legality of the Threat or Use of Nuclear Weapons,” July 8, 1996, para. 105(2)(E), http://www.icj-cij.org/docket/files/95/7495.pdf

7.   International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), “Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, and relating to the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts (Protocol I), 8 June 1977; Protection of the Civilian Population,” n.d., art. 51(4)(c), https://www.icrc.org/applic/ihl/ihl.nsf/Article.xsp?action=openDocument&documentId=4BEBD9920AE0AEAEC12563CD0051DC9E.  

8.   Ibid., art. 51(5)(b).

9.   Stephen M. Schwebel, dissenting opinion in “Legality of the Threat or Use of Nuclear Weapons,” July 8, 1996, p. 98, http://www.icj-cij.org/docket/files/95/7515.pdf.

10.   ICRC, “Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, and relating to the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts (Protocol I), 8 June 1977; Precautions in Attack,” n.d., art. 57(1), https://www.icrc.org/applic/ihl/ihl.nsf/Article.xsp?action=openDocument&documentId=50FB5579FB098FAAC12563CD0051DD7C.

11.   Ibid., art. 57(2)(a)(ii).

12.   ICRC, “Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, and relating to the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts (Protocol I), 8 June 1977; Commentary of 1987, Precautions in Attack,” n.d., para. 2201, https://www.icrc.org/applic/ihl/ihl.nsf/Comment.xsp?action=openDocument&documentId=D80D14D84BF36B92C12563CD00434FBD.

13.   Nystuen, Casey-Maslen, and Golden, Nuclear Weapons Under International Law.

14.   See ICRC, “Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, and relating to the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts (Protocol I), 8 June 1977; Basic Rules,” n.d., art. 35(3), https://www.icrc.org/applic/ihl/ihl.nsf/Article.xsp?action=openDocument&documentId=0DF4B935977689E8C12563CD0051DAE4; J.M. Henckaerts, “Study on Customary International Humanitarian Law: A Contribution to the Understanding and Respect for the Rule of Law in Armed Conflict,” International Review of the Red Cross, Vol. 87, No. 857 (2005): 191.

15.   Of the nuclear-armed states, China, North Korea, and Russia are parties to Additional Protocol I without reservations regarding its application to nuclear weapons. France and the United Kingdom are parties but with reservations on its application to nuclear weapons. The rest of the nuclear-armed states—India, Israel, Pakistan, and the United States—are not parties.

16.   ICRC, “Nuclear Weapons: Ending a Threat to Humanity,” February 18, 2015, https://www.icrc.org/en/document/nuclear-weapons-ending-threat-humanity (speech by Peter Maurer).

17.   Such zones are foreseen in Article VII of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT).

18.   For example, Etel Solingen, Nuclear Logics: Contrasting Paths in East Asia and the Middle East (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2007).

19.   Charles Flanagan, Statement of Ireland to the 2015 NPT Review Conference, April 27, 2015, http://reachingcriticalwill.org/images/documents/Disarmament-fora/npt/revcon2015/statements/27April_Ireland.pdf.

20.   Michael Rühle, “Enlightenment in the Second Nuclear Age,” International Affairs, Vol. 83, No. 3 (May 2007): 511-522.

21.   Nystuen, Casey-Maslen, and Golden, Nuclear Weapons Under International Law.

22.   Nick Ritchie, “Trident: The Deal Isn’t Done,” Bradford Disarmament Research Centre, December 2007, p. 11, note 38, http://www.brad.ac.uk/acad/bdrc/nuclear/trident/trident_deal_isnt_done.pdf.

23.   The text of the Biological Weapons Convention does not explicitly mention use of biological weapons, but the states-parties have agreed that the treaty shall be interpreted to include a prohibition on use. See Seventh Review Conference of the States Parties to the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on Their Destruction, “Final Document of the Seventh Review Conference,” BWC/CONF.VII/7, January 13, 2012, art. IV(16) (states-parties reaffirming that “under any circumstances the use, development, production and stockpiling of bacteriological (biological) and toxin weapons is effectively prohibited under Article I of the Convention”).

24.   See Gaukhar Mukhatzhanova, “Implementation of the Conclusions and Recommendations for Follow-on Actions Adopted at the 2010 NPT Review Conference Disarmament: Actions 1-22,” James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, April 2015, p. 2, https://www.nonproliferation.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/150415_cns_monitoring_report.pdf; Jayantha Dhanapala and Sergio Duarte, “Is There a Future for the NPT?” Arms Control Today, July/August 2015; Reaching Critical Will, “The NPT Action Plan Monitoring Report,” March 2015, http://www.reachingcriticalwill.org/images/documents/Publications/2010-Action-Plan/NPT_Action_Plan_2015.pdf.

25.   Juan Manuel Gomez Robledo, Statement of Mexico to the 2015 NPT Review Conference, April 27, 2015, http://reachingcriticalwill.org/images/documents/Disarmament-fora/npt/revcon2015/statements/27April_Mexico.pdf.

26.   Nozipho Mxakato-Diseko, Statement of South Africa to the 2015 NPT Review Conference, April 29, 2015, http://reachingcriticalwill.org/images/documents/Disarmament-fora/npt/revcon2015/statements/29April_SouthAfrica.pdf.

27.   See David A. Koplow, “Bonehead Non-Proliferation,” The Fletcher Forum of World Affairs, Vol. 17, No. 2 (1993): 150.

28.   See Shervin Taheran, “Kerry, Moniz Urge Review of CTBT,” Arms Control Today, November 2015.

29.   For more on these approaches, see International Law and Policy Institute and UN Institute for Disarmament Research, “A Prohibition on Nuclear Weapons: A Guide to the Issues,” February 2016, http://unidir.ilpi.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/ILPI-UNIDIR-prohibition-study-PRINT.pdf.

30.   See UN General Assembly, A/RES/70/33, December 11, 2015.

Gro Nystuen is director of the Center for International Humanitarian Law at the International Law and Policy Institute in Oslo. Kjølv Egeland is an adviser at the center and a doctoral candidate in international relations at the University of Oxford, Wadham College.

Unlike chemical and biological weapons, nuclear weapons are not explicitly and comprehensively prohibited under international law. This may reasonably labeled a legal gap.

Burying the Hatchet: The Case for a ‘Normal’ Nuclear South Asia

March 2016

By Feroz Hassan Khan 

06_Khan.jpgThe global nonproliferation regime faces a major challenge in South Asia. India and Pakistan, two nuclear-armed states locked in an intense and enduring rivalry, are investing heavily in their respective nuclear arsenals and deploying new delivery systems at an alarming rate.

At the same time, both countries are seeking entry into the club of responsible stewards of nuclear capability. Yet, the international community has been unwilling to find a pathway to confer de jure nuclear-weapon-state status on Islamabad and New Delhi, leaving the door to nuclear normalization shut.

The arms race gripping India and Pakistan is part and parcel of what some scholars describe as the second nuclear age.1 This new age is significantly different from the Cold War era referred to as the first nuclear age. It is characterized by geographically linked nuclear-armed states that are involved in varying levels of ideological rivalries and unresolved disputes, which have been exploited by violent religious extremists.2 In its current shape, the global nonproliferation regime is ill equipped to tackle the complexities of this second age wherein three regions—the Middle East, South Asia, and East Asia—are subject to potential instability and home to nuclear-armed states that are in defiance of the nonproliferation regime. This article focuses on South Asia, where the potential for a sudden Indian-Pakistani military crisis is profound, conventional and nuclear force postures are evolving rapidly, and a sense of discrimination persists regarding the nuclear world order. In part, these factors are exacerbating the Indian-Pakistani rivalry and driving further noncooperation with the global nonproliferation regime.

For 40 years, Islamabad and New Delhi have refused to join the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) and continued to build their arsenals while the international community has exhausted its diplomatic efforts and tools, including sanctions, to reverse, contain, or dampen the Indian-Pakistani arms race. This continued friction has had negative consequences for international security. It is high time for the international community to bury the hatchet by finding a pathway to bring South Asia into the global nuclear order. Doing so would temper the Indian-Pakistani arms race by creating powerful incentives for Islamabad and New Delhi to conform to the behavioral norms and legal obligations expected of nuclear powers.

This article begins by examining the global nonproliferation regime from a South Asian perspective and explains why bringing India and Pakistan into the nuclear mainstream is important. The article then evaluates three different pathways for Indian and Pakistani entry into the global nonproliferation regime: (1) developing political and technical criteria for membership into the regime; (2) engaging in bilateral negotiations with each of the two states on separate, independent tracks; and (3) partaking in multilateral negotiations and forums to reach an arrangement on strategic restraint. The end goal for these pathways, which are not mutually exclusive, is to allow the two countries to enter into export control regimes such as the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) and the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR). Membership in global export control regimes will encourage Islamabad and New Delhi to negotiate bilateral steps toward nuclear stability, safety, and security as promised in the 1999 Lahore Declaration and avail themselves of opportunities for arms control agreements in a region in dire need of nuclear stability.3

A Regional Perspective

The NPT, which entered into force in 1970, offered a grand bargain to countries willing to eschew nuclear weapons acquisition by promising them access to verifiably peaceful nuclear technology and a “good faith” pledge from the nuclear-weapon states (China, France, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, and the United States) to reduce if not eliminate their nuclear weapons stockpiles.4 India, Pakistan, and Israel—now de facto nuclear-armed states—did not accept the treaty and are generally described as outliers from an NPT standpoint. India, for its part, decried the treaty as a form of nuclear apartheid wherein the currency of power was the preserve of the five privileged countries that wielded their veto power in the UN Security Council to jealously guard their nuclear monopoly. Proponents of this view painted the nuclear issue in populist terms—a dispute between nuclear haves and have-nots. Moreover, India aspired to be treated as a global power, as it still does. It desires to be in the elite club of haves on par with China and loathes being lumped with Pakistan as a nuclear outlier.

Meanwhile, India and Pakistan saw export control regimes—the NSG, the MTCR, the Australia Group on chemical and biological weapons, and the Wassenaar Arrangement on conventional weapons and dual-use goods and technologies—as Western cartels aimed at denying technology to the Communist bloc and developing world alike, which deepened their perception of the NPT as a form of nuclear apartheid.

07_Khan.jpgIslamabad took particular umbrage at the NSG. Formed in the mid-1970s in response to India’s 1974 test of a nuclear device, the NSG had an immediate impact on Pakistan’s nascent nuclear program, which became a test case for the control regime’s effectiveness and heightened Islamabad’s sense of nuclear discrimination. In addition, the establishment of the NSG prompted a cat-and-mouse game between Pakistani procurement efforts and NSG efforts to block them, a dynamic that contributed to the genesis of the Abdul Qadeer Khan proliferation network.

India and Pakistan resisted the nonproliferation regime for economic reasons and out of principle, but national security imperatives also played a deterministic role. India’s security rationale for developing a nuclear weapons program stemmed from perceived threats from China, and these perceptions continue to drive India’s arms buildup to this day. Yet, India’s moves to modernize its nuclear forces with new delivery systems and ballistic missile defenses to balance against China raise red flags in Pakistan. In this context, the logic behind Islamabad’s decision to develop nuclear weapons is clear. Its program is primarily intended to offset its disparity with India in conventional forces and to prevent nuclear coercion. Islamabad’s current deterrence posture comprises compact-design warheads, short-range battlefield weapons, and medium-range ballistic and cruise missiles. Additionally, both countries have announced plans to introduce sea-based nuclear weapons sometime soon.5

In sum, India seeks to match China at the global level, and Pakistan seeks to match India at the regional level. This has transformed security dynamics in Asia into a security “trilemma,” in which arrangements to apply strategic restraint are becoming problematic.6 In any event, the intertwined arms race in South Asia warrants a more inclusive nonproliferation regime that encourages India and Pakistan to conform to prevailing nuclear norms rather than challenge them, as both states did in the last century.

Confronting a bilateral relationship characterized by a heavily militarized border, major territorial disputes, cross-border terrorist activity, and rapid advancements in nuclear arsenals and delivery systems, the international community should make every effort to discourage arms racing. Nuclear normalization is one path that could temper the security competition between India and Pakistan. Dogmatically rigid adherence to the antiquated nonproliferation regime of five—and only five—nuclear-weapon states simply confines India and Pakistan to a perpetual “outlaw” status that opens the door to unchecked arsenal buildups. The time has come for the regime to break with the status quo in favor of a new approach characterized by flexibility and accommodation for responsible nuclear outlier states. 

Criteria-Based Model

08_Khan.jpgSeveral experts have argued for a criteria-based model for legitimizing nuclear outlier states and bringing them into the nonproliferation regime.7 The premise of a criteria-based approach is that it is inherently nondiscriminatory and thereby allows all non-NPT states a way to undertake the obligations that other members of the treaty have assumed. Such an approach would proscribe making special exceptions for commercial interests and engaging in the politics of alliances and balancing—criticisms that Pakistan frequently levies against the U.S.-Indian nuclear deal.

Another argument for a criteria-based model derives from the combined threat of global terrorism and fear of nuclear accidents such as the March 2011 meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. These concerns have diminished the promise of a nuclear energy renaissance and placed greater emphasis on nuclear safety and security. Bringing nuclear outlier states into the nonproliferation regime would allow them to undertake more-robust safety and security measures, pursue closer relationships with nuclear regulatory authorities, and receive better technical assistance from the West.

Attainment of these objectives requires normalization of nuclear relations with India and Pakistan as a first step. Arguably, the nuclear deal with India confers legitimacy on India’s nuclear program, but it is based on exception. India is not legally obligated to undertake the steps NPT nuclear-weapon states are required to take, such as disarmament, but the nuclear deal is nevertheless an incentive for India to conform to nuclear norms. Pakistan, in contrast, has neither nuclear legitimacy nor any nuclear deal that could entice it to follow these norms. Nuclear normalization would simply mean that each country would be treated as “normal nuclear country” if it met certain criteria.8 The two countries could be mainstreamed into the nuclear world order by making them members of the NSG and other export control regimes.9

At the time the U.S. nuclear deal with India was contemplated, there existed no established criteria for nuclear normalization. In making its argument for the lifting of international sanctions, India cited its democratic governance; its good proliferation track record, at least compared to Pakistan, whose reputation was tarnished by the A.Q. Khan scandal; and the promise of nuclear purchases from the international market. For New Delhi, a nuclear deal also was seen as a tool for bolstering India’s case for eventual membership in the NSG.

Pakistan watched the negotiation of the U.S.-Indian deal from the sidelines; it was unable to influence the outcome that led to India’s NSG exemption. Under U.S. pressure, Islamabad lifted its objections at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Board of Governors meetings to India’s nuclear cooperation agreement with the United States as the agreement went through the board’s approval process in 2008.10 Furthermore, as the years went by and especially after the advent of the Obama administration in 2009, Islamabad realized that, despite private assurances from the Bush administration to the contrary, the prospects for a U.S.-Pakistani nuclear deal were dim. Islamabad then broke its silence, began protesting the discriminatory nature of the U.S.-Indian deal, and vocally expressed its view that the exceptional nuclear deal with India would have a deleterious impact on Pakistani national security. Moreover, Islamabad blocked the commencement of negotiations on a fissile material cutoff treaty (FMCT), arguing that the treaty would freeze Pakistan’s nuclear stockpiles at a disadvantage relative to India. The next major development came in 2011, when Pakistan tested the Nasr, a nuclear-capable ballistic missile with a range of 60 kilometers. U.S.-Pakistani nuclear relations dipped to an all-time low.11

Today, Islamabad seeks a criteria-based approach in hopes of legitimizing its nuclear program. Because the prospects for a formal U.S.-Pakistani civilian nuclear deal remain uncertain, Islamabad seeks membership in the NSG primarily to gain legitimacy as a responsible nuclear power and wipe out the legacy of the A.Q. Khan network. Also, Islamabad would prefer to engage in nuclear commerce under the NSG framework rather than outside it. Experts have argued, however, that Islamabad lacks the money to engage in nuclear commerce and that vendors from other countries would be reluctant to invest in Pakistan given its internal security problems. Despite Pakistan’s claim of operating a robust nuclear security system, Western states remain skeptical, surmising that mounting extremism and a deteriorating domestic security environment increase the risk of sabotage.12 Yet, this has not deterred Beijing. China has provided Pakistan with civilian nuclear assistance although Pakistan, like India, is not a party to the NPT and therefore, under NSG export guidelines, would not normally be eligible to receive such assistance. China has argued that such assistance is permitted because the U.S.-Indian nuclear deal set a precedent and because Chinese-Pakistani nuclear cooperation predated China’s membership in the NSG and therefore is “grandfathered.”13

 In light of these considerations, various scholars have suggested several admission criteria to the NSG and other export control groups. The criteria fall into two categories: eligibility criteria and political acceptability for the members of the NSG and other control groups. The eligibility criteria include meeting the various bureaucratic requirements for membership into export control groups as mentioned above. For non-NPT states such as India and Pakistan, entry into the NSG, for example, would require undertaking several steps in addition to those already known for eligibility into export control regimes.14 Pierre Goldschmidt, a former head of the Department of Safeguards at the IAEA, has suggested 14 steps for non-NPT members to become full members of the NSG. In brief, these criteria would require non-NPT members to pledge those undertakings that the five NPT nuclear-weapon states have taken: placing all nonmilitary nuclear facilities under full-scope safeguards, agreeing to ratify an additional protocol to their safeguards agreements, and adhering to all the NSG decisions.15

India and Pakistan could meet most of the eligibility requirements, but may find it difficult to agree to all of the expected concessions due to the salience of nuclear weapons in their respective national security policies and the domestic political unpalatability of compromising too much of what each state might think is its “minimum credible deterrence” requirements. For example, the two states may still resist signing the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) or ceasing production of fissile material for weapons. Furthermore, meeting the eligibility requirements alone is insufficient to attain membership in the club. Accession will require political negotiations with major powers and states that are members of the export control regimes, as each member state may have individual concerns that may preclude consensus even if India and Pakistan fulfill all the eligibility requirements. To gain international support for their formal entry into the NSG, the two countries would certainly be required to make concessions and accept restraints on their nuclear weapons programs.

 India will likely encounter fewer political hurdles because it has already passed the test once. Furthermore, India has defense and economic ties with major NSG member countries. Pakistan, in contrast, has a steep hill to climb in order to garner international support. Additionally, given Pakistan’s proliferation record and its internal instability, the West would likely seek greater concessions and restraints than it required of India, which Islamabad may find difficult to accept. Although Pakistan demands equitable treatment, most states see India in a different league as a major power and Pakistan as a regional albeit strategically important country.

On balance, India has the edge over Pakistan with respect to criteria-based NSG membership. This would be nightmarish for Pakistan because Islamabad calculates and New Delhi realizes that once India becomes a member of the NSG, the door for Pakistani entry might well be permanently shut because India could block consensus on admitting Pakistan. Sidelining Pakistan from the NSG in such a way would serve only to undermine regional stability.16 It would deepen Islamabad’s sense of indignity and strengthen the position of domestic stakeholders seeking to diversify and expand Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal. Accordingly, as much as a criteria-based approach makes sense from the standpoint of fairness and equality, developing political consensus for normalizing nuclear relations with India and Pakistan would require bilateral or multilateral negotiations. 

Separate, Bilateral Tracks

Another model for normalization is for the United States to engage in bilateral negotiations with Islamabad and New Delhi on separate tracks. The goal would be to extract commitments on arms control and strategic restraint from both capitals. In return, the United States would pledge full support for Indian and Pakistani membership in the NSG and other export control regimes. Although this would be a painful and uncertain process, the United States has demonstrated, in the case of India, that a bilateral nuclear deal can be struck with an outlier state through sustained diplomacy, patience, and political will.

Admittedly, the U.S. experience of negotiating with Islamabad and New Delhi on separate tracks to achieve the same outcome has not proven successful in the past. Following the 1998 Indian and Pakistani nuclear tests, President Bill Clinton assigned Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott to lead separate negotiations with the two countries, which then were under sanctions. The goal was to get the sanctions removed and bring relations back to normalcy. Predictably, the negotiations stalled, as neither of the two South Asian countries knew what the other had conceded or negotiated.

09_Khan.jpgDespite the false start during the Clinton years, prospects for successful bilateral negotiations today are improved, as the geopolitical environment has evolved over the past 15-plus years. Washington’s relations with New Delhi have warmed steadily, and both capitals speak of a budding U.S.-Indian “strategic partnership.”

Although the U.S.-Pakistani relationship has been turbulent in recent years, especially since 2011, it currently is on a positive trajectory, albeit with a degree of underlying suspicion and distrust.17 Since 2012, the United States has been engaged in several levels of strategic dialogue with Islamabad, including discussions on charting a path to nuclear normalization. In the fall of 2015, various U.S. media outlets reported that the Obama administration was contemplating a nuclear deal with Pakistan.18 The Indian and Pakistani prime ministers also were scheduled for official visits to the United States in this time frame. Islamabad and New Delhi reacted strongly to these press reports. The ensuing uproar over a supposed U.S.-Pakistani deal forced the Obama administration to clarify that no such agreement was on the table for Islamabad.

It also is likely that negative reactions from both capitals were influenced by the publication of two think tank reports in 2014-2015 proposing road maps to Pakistani normalization.19 New Delhi’s reaction was predictable. A nuclear deal for Pakistan would pull Islamabad out of the hole in which it found itself after the A.Q. Khan episode. Such a renewal of relations would run counter to India’s policy of diplomatically isolating Pakistan.

Islamabad’s reaction to the reports was surprisingly frosty. For years, Pakistan has sought equal treatment and a nuclear deal analogous to India’s. Yet, when these reports emerged, public reaction in Islamabad was not focused on the “normalization” content but on the perception that the government was being forced to concede too much on its nuclear program. Pakistan’s skeptical reaction, however, should not come as a total surprise. U.S.-Pakistani nuclear relations soured in the mid-1970s over Pakistan’s quest for nuclear weapons and have never recovered. Although bilateral ties have ebbed and flowed since then, nuclear issues have remained a persistent irritant in the relationship.20

There were several variations of this negative reaction in Pakistan. One school of thought was based on the belief that the United States is bent on Pakistani disarmament, by force if necessary, and is applying pressure to that end. This theory has existed in Pakistan for some time, but gained traction following the 2011 U.S. commando raid in Abbottabad that killed Osama bin Laden. Pakistani media often portray this theory as if it were official U.S. policy.

The second, less widely held shade of opinion was that the United States had adopted an approach reminiscent of the “cap and roll back” policy of the early 1990s. At that time, Islamabad was under nuclear sanctions under U.S. nonproliferation laws. For some years, the United States sought to cap Pakistan’s production of highly enriched uranium and then roll back the country’s capacity to produce more. In other words, sanctions were being employed as leverage to persuade Pakistan to compromise on its nuclear program. Islamabad, however, was unwilling to comply after having paid the price of nuclear defiance, which included economic sanctions, denial of a modern military capability, and diplomatic opprobrium. The U.S. policy turned out to be counterproductive. Rather than reversing its nuclear program, Pakistan stepped up production of fissile material and diversified its delivery vehicles by acquiring missiles and missile technology. Although the U.S. policy ultimately failed to dissuade Islamabad, the psychological impact of that period continues to linger in some quarters in Pakistan.

The third shade of reaction was that the United States was pressuring Islamabad to weaken its deterrence posture against India. This school of thought champions Pakistani defiance against any concessions on nuclear matters and is deeply rooted in Pakistani society.

One example of this attitude came during Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s visit to Washington in October 2015. To dispel rumors of any nuclear concessions, Pakistani Foreign Secretary Aizaz Chaudhry issued a press statement justifying the rationale of Pakistani tactical nuclear weapons. This was an effort to preempt any rumor of or speculation about Pakistani concessions on its nuclear arsenal or force posture during Sharif’s visit.21

In all three cases, the voices of conspiracy were so loud that they drowned out and distracted from the central message of mainstreaming Pakistan’s nuclear program. In any event, Islamabad was seemingly ill prepared for negotiation toward normalization. It probably felt pressured from official discussions, publications, and media reports all coming together around the same time. On the basis of these, Islamabad apparently concluded that the terms of any nuclear deal with Washington would require Pakistan to compromise what it considers its vital security interests and would not be palatable domestically. Regional security experts in the United States are well aware that preserving a minimum credible nuclear deterrent posture is of utmost priority to Pakistan’s national security policymakers. Perhaps the fundamental stumbling block for any U.S.-Pakistani nuclear negotiation is that the two countries have different interpretations of what “minimum” and “credible” mean. For example, Islamabad contends that its newly minted tactical nuclear weapons are a necessary and reasonable deterrent against India’s limited-war doctrine known as Cold Start. Meanwhile, U.S. commentators have expressed concerns over the command-and-control, deterrence stability, and escalation control challenges posed by these weapons.22

Multilateral Negotiations

The third approach toward normalization is to engage in multilateral negotiations with India and Pakistan. Multiparty negotiations have seen recent success in the case of the Iran nuclear deal, but in the Indian-Pakistani case, the focus of the talks would be normalization rather than disarmament.

There are several advantages to a multilateral approach. First, it would involve all stakeholders and influential members of the international community, as was the case with the Iran deal. Second, it would not involve opaque, separate-track dialogues such as those during the Talbott negotiations that followed the 1998 tests. Third, its inclusive nature would make it more difficult for critics to allege favoritism—for example, that China is supporting Pakistan and the United States supporting India. Finally, this approach can be pursued in tandem with the criteria-based and bilateral approaches.

New Delhi, however, historically has opposed the multilateralization of what it considers to be strictly bilateral issues between India and Pakistan, such as the Kashmir dispute. For the reasons explained above, India would prefer the bilateral approach in this case. Yet, China and Russia recently set a precedent in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) regarding Indian and Pakistani membership. The two South Asian countries were observers to the SCO, but both were seeking full membership in the organization.23 China opposed Indian entry unless Pakistan was included; Russia opposed Pakistan. After years of discussions and bilateral talks, China and Russia recently agreed to the simultaneous entry of India and Pakistan into the SCO. That model could be one way to break the gridlock surrounding Indian and Pakistani membership in the NSG.

A suggested road map for a multilateral approach for simultaneous entry by India and Pakistan into the NSG could contain the following steps: 

1.   India and Pakistan are treated as normal nuclear states that possess nuclear weapons for national security reasons. Both states should formally reiterate that their nuclear capabilities are exclusively for defensive deterrence purposes.

2.   The international community recognizes that nuclear legitimacy for Islamabad and New Delhi is an important step in curtailing the Indian-Pakistani arms race. Normalization would encourage nuclear stability, security, and safety and would induce the cooperation between the two countries that was described in the 1999 Lahore memorandum of understanding.

3.   The two states agree to separate their civilian and military nuclear programs and fuel cycles cleanly and completely and to place the facilities declared as civilian under internationally agreed safeguards.

4.   The two states agree to keep nuclear weapons on their lowest alert status, with nuclear warheads separated from their delivery vehicles.

5.   The two states agree to adopt the highest global standards of nuclear security and safety and seek maximum assistance in this area from international organizations and countries with advanced nuclear programs.

6.   The two states agree to commence a sustained bilateral dialogue for peace and security with a view toward negotiating and implementing a mutually acceptable arrangement for strategic restraint.

7.   The two states agree to facilitate rather than obstruct the commencement of a global FMCT, maintain their nuclear testing moratorium, and pledge to join the CTBT.


India and Pakistan have come a long way in the nearly two decades that have followed the 1998 nuclear tests. It is time for the global nonproliferation regime to open the door to a normal nuclear South Asia and for India and Pakistan to address the international community’s legitimate concerns over their respective arms buildups.

As it is, India continues to build capabilities for power projection to match China, while Pakistan is building its capacity to balance against India. The interconnected nature of this strategic competition has the potential to create instability given the volatile nature of regional politics and probability of sudden crises that could rapidly escalate to nuclear deployment and possible use. There is a need for a global initiative that could break this gridlock and move away from international trends by incentivizing the two countries to enter into negotiations for an acceptable place in the world nuclear order.

For the reasons discussed in this article, the most promising approach is a process of multilateral negotiations that establishes criteria that India and Pakistan must meet and involves political negotiations. The goal would be to bring India and Pakistan into the global export control regimes, most notably the NSG, and eventually give the two countries “associate” membership in the NPT as de facto nuclear-weapon-possessing states. This status would not make India and Pakistan full members as NPT nuclear-weapon states, but would recognize the steps taken by an outlier country to undertake all obligations and adopt practices and polices as if it were a de jure NPT nuclear-weapon state.

A notional timeline for this process would be as follows: India and Pakistan are allowed into the NSG and other export control regimes within the next four years and thus provided with an opportunity to demonstrate responsible stewardship of nuclear capability. The 50th anniversary of the NPT’s entry into force, in 2020, would be a propitious moment for the nuclear nonproliferation regime to have solved the issue of the outlier states. Although this article focused on India and Pakistan because of the intensity of their strategic competition, the principle and pathway suggested here could apply to Israeli membership as well. Bringing these outlier states into the fold of the global nonproliferation regime would significantly strengthen the regime while providing the states with incentives to undertake responsible stewardship of nuclear weapons for the benefit of international security.


1.   Paul Bracken describes the emergence of new nuclear powers in the post-Cold War period as the “second nuclear age.” Paul Bracken, The Second Nuclear Age: Strategy, Danger, and the New Power Politics (New York: Times Books, 2012). See also Ashley Tellis, Abraham Denmark, and Travis Tanner, eds., Strategic Asia 2013-2014: Asia in the Second Nuclear Age (Washington DC: National Bureau of Asian Research, 2013).

2.   Gregory D. Koblentz, “Strategic Stability in the Second Nuclear Age,” Council on Foreign Relations, Council Special Report, No. 71 (November 2014).

3.   A memorandum of understanding was part of the Lahore Declaration of 1999, which was signed by Prime Ministers Atal Bihari Vajpayee of India and Nawaz Sharif of Pakistan on February 21, 1999. This was the first bilateral agreement between India and Pakistan after the nuclear tests. The memorandum commits the two sides to discussing security doctrines, arms control, and confidence-building measures to ensure stability. See Toby Dalton, “Beyond Incrementalism: Rethinking Approaches to CBMs and Stability in South Asia,” in Deterrence Stability and Escalation Control in South Asia, ed. Michael Krepon and Julia Thompson (Washington, DC: Stimson Center, 2013), pp. 187-208.

4.   Michael Mandelbaum, “Lessons of the Next Nuclear War,” Foreign Affairs, No. 74 (March/April 1995).

5.   For a comprehensive study of the nuclear strategies and force postures of India and Pakistan, see Vipin Narang, Nuclear Strategy in the Modern Era: Regional Powers and International Conflict (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2014).

6.   The term “security trilemma” is attributed to Linton Brooks and Mira Rapp-Hooper. Linton Brooks and Mira Rapp-Hooper, “Extended Deterrence, Assurance, and Reassurance in the Pacific During the Second Nuclear Age,” in Strategic Asia 2013-2014: Asia in the Second Nuclear Age, ed. Ashley Tellis, Abraham Denmark, and Travis Tanner (Washington DC: National Bureau of Asian Research, 2013).

7.   See Pierre Goldschmidt, “NSG Membership: A Criteria-Based Approach for Non-NPT States,” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (CEIP), May 24, 2011, http://carnegieendowment.org/2011/05/24/nsg-membership-criteria-based-approach-for-non-npt-states; Toby Dalton, Mark Hibbs, and George Perkovich, “A Criteria-Based Approach to Nuclear Cooperation With Pakistan,” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace Policy Outlook, June 22, 2011, http://carnegieendowment.org/files/nsg_criteria.pdf. 

8.   Mark Fitzpatrick, Overcoming Pakistan’s Nuclear Dangers (London: International Institute of Strategic Studies, 2014), pp. 159-164.

9.   Toby Dalton and Michael Krepon, “A Normal Nuclear Pakistan,” Stimson Center and CEIP, 2015, http://carnegieendowment.org/files/NormalNuclearPakistan.pdf.

10.   Baqir Sajjad Syed, “Ex-Envoy Sheds Light on Mystery About Failure to Block IAEA India-Specific Deal,” Dawn, December 19, 2015.

11.   Feroz Hassan Khan and Ryan W. French, “U.S.-Pakistan Nuclear Relations: A Strategic Survey,” PASCC Report, No. 2014-005 (April 2014.)

12.   The latest Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI) Nuclear Security Index has introduced two additional factors—sabotage and cybersecurity—in developing the index criteria. See “The 2016 NTI Nuclear Security Index: Theft and Sabotage,” n.d., http://ntiindex.org/behind-the-index/about-the-nti-index/.

13.   Fitzpatrick, Overcoming Pakistan’s Nuclear Dangers.

14.   For a detailed discussion of this issue, see Mark Hibbs, “Toward a Nuclear Suppliers Group Policy for States Not Party to the NPT,” CEIP, February 12, 2016, http://carnegieendowment.org/2016/02/12/toward-nuclear-suppliers-group-policy-for-states-not-party-to-npt/itxg.

15.   Goldschmidt, “NSG Membership.”

16.   “Nuclear Discrimination Impacting Regional Security, Says Pakistan,” The News (Pakistan), February 13, 2016.

17.   The incidents in 2011 involved CIA contractor Raymond Davis’ killing of two Pakistani citizens in January, the raid that killed Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad in May, and an accidental U.S. attack on a Pakistani military post on the Afghan border in November. For a detailed account, see Khan and French, “U.S.-Pakistan Nuclear Relations.”

18.   David Ignatius, “The U.S. Cannot Afford to Forget Afghanistan and Pakistan,” The Washington Post, October 6, 2015; David Sanger, “U.S. Exploring Deal to Limit Pakistan’s Nuclear Arsenal,” The New York Times, October 15, 2015.

19.   Fitzpatrick, Overcoming Pakistan’s Nuclear Dangers; Dalton and Krepon, “Normal Nuclear Pakistan.”

20.   Khan and French, “U.S.-Pakistan Nuclear Relations.”

21.   “Pakistan Developed Tactical Nukes to ‘Deter’ India: Foreign Secretary Aizaz Chaudhry,” Press Trust of India, October 20, 2015, http://indianexpress.com/article/world/neighbours/pakistan-developed-tactical-nukes-to-deter-india-aizaz-chaudhry/. See also “Pakistan With ‘Tactical Nukes’ Ready to Counter Indian Aggression: Aizaz,” The International News (Pakistan), October 20, 2015.

22.   For a Pakistani perspective, see Mark Fitzpatrick, Overcoming Pakistan’s Nuclear Dangers (citing Adil Sultan, “Pakistan’s Emerging Nuclear Posture: Impact of Drivers and Technology on Nuclear Doctrine,” Institute of Strategic Studies, Islamabad, April 17, 2012). For U.S. perspectives, see David O. Smith, “The U.S. Experience With Tactical Nuclear Weapons: Lessons for South Asia” in Deterrence Stability and Escalation Control in South Asia, ed. Michael Krepon and Julia Thompson (Washington, DC: Henry L. Stimson Center, 2013), pp. 65-92; David J. Carl, “Pakistan’s Evolving Nuclear Weapons Posture,” The Nonproliferation Review, Vol. 21, Nos. 3-4 (September-December 2014): 317-336.

23.   The Shanghai Cooperation Organization is a regional organization led by China and Russia and involving six Central Asian states. Its objective is to enhance economic cooperation and combat terrorism, separatism, and extremism. For details, see Asia Regional Integration Center, “Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO),” n.d., https://aric.adb.org/initiative/shanghai-cooperation-organization.

Feroz Hassan Khan is a lecturer in the Department of National Security Affairs at the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California. He is a former director of arms control and disarmament in Pakistan’s Strategic Plans Division and is the author of Eating Grass: The Making of the Pakistani Bomb (2012). The views expressed in this article are those of the author and may not represent the position of any government.

Membership in global export control regimes will encourage India and Pakistan to negotiate bilateral steps toward nuclear stability, safety, and security...

UN, Others Respond to N. Korean Moves

March 2016

By Elizabeth Philipp

14_NEWS_NKorea.jpgThe international community is debating new punitive measures in response to recent actions by North Korea to advance its nuclear and missile capability.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned North Korea’s Feb. 7 satellite launch and a Jan. 6 nuclear test as violations of previous Security Council resolutions. Last month, North Korea launched a three-stage rocket and placed a satellite into orbit. The rocket launch is of concern to the international community because of the potential scientific advantage it provides Pyongyang for developing a long-range missile that could eventually be outfitted with nuclear warheads.

In January, North Korea conducted its fourth nuclear test, which had a yield of about 10 kilotons. Pyongyang said it had tested a hydrogen bomb, which would signify a technological advance for the state. Government officials and independent experts expressed serious doubts about the claim.

In a statement shortly after the satellite launch, Ban said, “It is deeply deplorable that [North Korea] has conducted a launch using ballistic missile technology in violation of relevant Security Council resolutions.”

The Security Council last adopted a resolution on the North Korean nuclear program in 2013. Late last month, the council was deliberating on an additional resolution condemning the recent nuclear test explosion, reaffirming restrictions on North Korea’s nuclear and missile development programs and the financing of them, and imposing new restrictions.

Ban reiterated his call to Pyongyang to “halt its provocative actions and return to compliance with its international obligations” and his “commitment to working with all sides in reducing tensions and achieving the verifiable denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula.”

After Pyongyang’s nuclear test in January, Ban condemned the test “unequivocally” at a press conference.

U.S. Responds

In the United States, President Barack Obama on Feb. 18 signed into law a bill that expands sanctions on North Korean individuals and banking, calls for closer scrutiny of the human rights violations experienced by North Korean citizens abroad, and supports enforcing existing nonproliferation efforts.

The bill, H.R. 757, was introduced in the House of Representatives in February 2015 by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) and a bipartisan group of five co-sponsors. The bill initially stalled, but after the Jan. 6 nuclear test, it gained momentum and moved through the House and Senate, where the Foreign Relations Committee added several new sections. One imposed a requirement on the secretary of state to report to Congress on a review of U.S. policy toward North Korea, based on a “complete interagency review of current policies and possible alternatives,” and provide recommendations for legislative and administrative action. Another addition requires the president to direct development of a strategy to improve international implementation and enforcement of existing UN sanctions specific to North Korea.

After the Senate passed the bill on Feb. 10 by a vote of 96-0, Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) issued a statement saying the legislation provides “a more robust set of tools to confront the growing North Korean nuclear and ballistic missile threat.” The House approved the Senate version of the bill on Feb. 12.

The United States previously has imposed national sanctions on North Korean entities for actions materially contributing to the proliferation of nonconventional weapons or their means of delivery, most recently in December 2015.

North Korea’s Progress on Sub Missile Questioned

North Korean video footage of the Dec. 21 test launch of a ballistic missile designed for deployment on submarines appears to have been seriously doctored, a U.S. research institute says.

The footage, which Pyongyang released Jan. 8, intentionally misrepresented the success of the test, experts at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies wrote in a Jan. 12 analysis.

The launch was an ejection test of the KN-11 submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) from a submerged barge. Ejection tests are designed to evaluate a missile’s stabilization systems and the process of underwater launch. North Korea first conducted a successful ejection test from a submerged barge in May 2015. (See ACT, January/February 2016.)

Pyongyang attempted to launch the KN-11 from a submarine last November, but the test reportedly was a failure because the missile failed to eject successfully.

“Although the KN-11 appears to eject successfully, which is an improvement over November, we think that a catastrophic failure occurred at ignition…. The rocket appears to explode,” wrote Catherine Dill of the James Martin Center.

The launch portrayed in the video took place in the waters near the Sinpo Shipyard, where Pyongyang’s SLBM program is based, Dill wrote.

The December test was the third SLBM test for North Korea in 2015. Although it is not clear why the SLBM tests have failed thus far, “it seems the North Korean specialists are trying to master the mechanism for ejecting the missile from the launch tube, and then igniting the missile’s engine,” said Michael Elleman of the International Institute for Strategic Studies in a Feb. 19 email to Arms Control Today.

North Korea has likely tested the missile ejection mechanism on land, Elleman said. But “failures are inevitable and expected” in developing a viable SLBM capability and “only tell us that [the North Koreans] are trying to do something that they have not done before,” he said.

There are “no shortcuts” to developing a reliable SLBM system, Elleman said. “[I]t will take some time to perfect all of the necessary technologies.”

He said he suspects it will be “most likely after 2020” before North Korea could develop an operational SLBM capability.—ELIZABETH PHILIPP

    Regional Reactions

    China has signaled support for punitive actions against North Korea. In remarks on Feb. 16, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said that North Korea must “pay the necessary price” under new UN sanctions, according to a report by South Korea’s Yonhap news agency. Wang said the purpose of a forthcoming UN resolution would be to “stop North Korea from going any further down the path of developing nuclear weapons.” He stated that North Korea must return to the six-party talks, a negotiating forum that Pyongyang left in 2009.

    Japan and South Korea also have taken action against North Korea in response to its recent actions. Tokyo intends to tighten restrictions on travel between North Korea and Japan and to ban North Korean ships from docking in Japanese ports, Yoshihide Suga, Japan’s chief cabinet secretary, said at a Feb. 8 press briefing.

    On Feb. 10, South Korea suspended its participation in the joint industrial venture at Kaesong in North Korea. The Kaesong Industrial Complex has served as a cooperative project for the two Koreas since 2002 and the city of Kaesong as a venue for diplomatic meetings as recently as December 2015. As further justification for shuttering the industrial zone, the South Korean minister of unification, Hong Yong-pyo, also publicly stated on Feb. 10 that hard currency earned by the North Koreans through the Kaesong venture has been “wrongly harnessed” and used to fund Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programs.

    Space Launch

    The Feb. 7 launch marked North Korea’s fifth firing  of a long-range rocket since 1998. U.S. officials contend that the launch is a cover for an effort to eventually develop and deploy a long-range missile capable of striking the United States. UN Security Council President Rafael Darío Ramírez Carreño of Venezuela referred to the Feb. 7 event as a “missile launch,” as did U.S. State Department spokesperson John Kirby in a Feb. 8 press briefing. Other experts, however, suggested that although the firing of the space launch vehicle had implications for ballistic missile development, North Korea might also have an interest in space development. In a recent analysis for 38 North, an online publication of the U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University, Michael Elleman of the International Institute for Strategic Studies suggested that the sequence of events in the North Korean rocket program does not comport with a program of research and development on an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). No country has first developed space launch technology and then applied it to an ICBM program, he said. In the analysis, he explained that the large rockets North Korea has launched have been designed to perform as satellite launchers. Significant flight testing would also be required before North Korea could deploy a reliable ICBM, he wrote.

    The rocket fired on Feb. 7 had three stages and was liquid fueled, making it similar to the Unha space launch vehicle that North Korea sent into space in 2012, Elleman said. According to a Feb. 20 story from Yonhap, the South Korean military has finished gathering debris from the launch and will assess it to gain data on Pyongyang’s capability. The final stage exploded into more than 270 pieces, possibly intentionally by North Korea, before landing in the Yellow Sea, the story said.

    North Korea announced its impending test to the International Maritime Organization on Feb. 2 for the period of Feb. 8-25, but later shortened the anticipated launch period to Feb. 7-14.

    North Korea watchers have been anticipating a rocket launch since North Korea undertook serious renovations at its Sohae satellite launch station at Tongchang-ri on the peninsula’s west coast. Renovations completed in 2015 included the installation of a covered launch tower and a movable warehouse, both of which serve to protect a space launch vehicle from the elements and to conceal launch preparations, according to analysts at 38 North. North Korean rockets are liquid fueled, meaning they must be fueled in place before launch, which is a slow and detectable process.

    With the Feb. 7 launch, North Korea claims to have placed into orbit an earth observation satellite, the Kwangmyongsong-4. (Kwangmyongsong means “bright star.”) There is no public information indicating that the satellite is transmitting a signal back to Earth. According to a Yonhap report, South Korean intelligence has estimated that the Kwangmongsong-4 weighs 200 kilograms, twice as much as the satellite launched in 2012.

    Pyongyang also claimed to have placed a satellite into orbit in 2012, but it is thought to have been a dummy satellite as there is no indication that it ever made contact with Earth.    

    Following broad international criticism, new punitive measures are promised. 

    China Elevates Nuclear Rocket Force

    March 2016

    By Kelsey Davenport

    16_NEWS_China.jpgChina announced in December that it had elevated and renamed the force charged with overseeing the country’s nuclear mission, but said the changes would not affect Beijing’s nuclear policy or strategy.

    Experts agreed that the change is unlikely to affect China’s nuclear policy, but raised concerns about China’s nuclear modernization activities and other potential changes to its nuclear program.

    In a Dec. 31 speech in Beijing, Chinese President Xi Jinping announced the formation of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Rocket Force, which will continue the nuclear mission of what had been the army’s Second Artillery Corps and be the “core force of strategic deterrence.”

    Yang Yujun, spokesman for the Chinese Defense Ministry, said on Jan. 1 that the establishment of the Rocket Force would not alter China’s no-first-use commitment for nuclear weapons. Yang also said that China’s nuclear force levels would remain at the minimum level necessary for national security.

    Gregory Kulacki, senior analyst and China project manager at the Union of Concerned Scientists, said in a Feb. 2 email to Arms Control Today that there is “no indication at this time that the decision to re-name the Second Artillery will lead to substantive changes in China’s nuclear weapons policy.”

    He said that most of the Second Artillery Force’s “former assets and responsibilities remain intact” under the Rocket Force.

    Xi’s announcement was part of a broader reorganization of the PLA. The Rocket Force will have equal status along-side China’s army, navy, and air force.

    Michael Chase, a senior political scientist at the RAND Corp. who focuses on China, said in a Feb. 4 email that elevating the strategic missile force from the Second Artillery Corps to the “level of a full service” as the Rocket Force “reflects the importance China’s top leaders attach to continuing to modernize the rocket force.”

     The Rocket Force will command all three legs of China’s nuclear triad—ballistic missiles, nuclear-capable bombers, and submarines.

    China does not disclose the size of its nuclear arsenal, but is widely believed to possess approximately 260 warheads. The majority of Beijing’s arsenal is intended for delivery on land-based ballistic missiles.

    Kulacki said that “the most worrisome potential changes” to China’s nuclear program were being discussed before the name change was announced. These changes, which Kulacki said are still being discussed, include the “development of an early warning system, a decision to raise the alert level of China’s nuclear forces and the implementation of a ‘launch on warning’ policy,” he said.

    The early-warning system is worrisome because it enables rapid launch, Kulacki said. He said that “U.S. and Soviet experience with early warning systems, especially in the early stages of development, indicates they are prone to error.” If China constructs an early-warning system and places its forces on a higher state of alert to launch on warning of an incoming attack, “it will greatly increase the risk of an accidental or mistaken launch of a nuclear-armed Chinese missile,” Kulacki said.

    China’s nuclear warheads are widely believed to be stored separately from their delivery systems. In a 2009 defense white paper, China declared that its nuclear missiles are detargeted in peacetime and “not aimed at any country.”

    In the announcement establishing the new force, Xi said it would be tasked with enhancing China’s nuclear deterrence and counterstrike capabilities.

    Chase said that although China has stated it will continue to adhere to its long-standing nuclear policy, Beijing is modernizing its forces. The modernization program focuses on “improving survivability” by deploying road-mobile intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and ballistic missile submarines, he said.

    China’s initial Xia-class submarine is widely believed to be a technology demonstrator that never conducted a patrol with nuclear-armed ballistic missiles.

    According to a 2015 report on China’s military program issued by the U.S. Defense Department, China currently has four operational Jin-class submarines that are the country’s first “credible long-range sea-based” nuclear capability and could begin their nuclear-armed patrols by the end of 2015, according to the report.

    The submarines eventually will carry the JL-2 submarine-launched ballistic missile, which has an estimated range of 7,400 kilometers, the report says.

    Chase said China’s public display of its nuclear missiles in a military parade last year reflects “growing confidence in its strategic deterrent.” He said Beijing has some new nuclear capabilities under development, including a mobile ICBM that is able to carry multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicles. Such a capability would allow China to put multiple nuclear warheads on each missile. China’s current missiles are capable of carrying only one nuclear warhead apiece.

    Wei Fenghe was appointed commander of the Rocket Force, and Wang Jiasheng is the political commissar, the highest nonmilitary position. Wei had been the commander of the Second Artillery Force since 2012. 

    The move is not expected to affect nuclear policy or strategy. 

    Nuclear Summit Seeks Sustainable Results

    March 2016

    By Kelsey Davenport and Kingston Reif

    17_NEWS_NSS.jpgA consensus document on nuclear security that will be released at the upcoming nuclear security summit in Washington will outline further steps to strengthen the global nuclear security architecture and spur progress on tangible nuclear security improvements, a senior White House official said last month.

    In a Feb. 12 email to Arms Control Today, the official said that the document will “highlight progress” toward these goals and “look forward to further steps required to achieve them.”

    The official said that multilateral initiatives and institutions are critical components of the “architecture,” along with “treaty regimes, informal arrangements, and national regulations.”

    The March 31-April 1 meeting will be the fourth and final biennial summit on nuclear security since President Barack Obama hosted the first one in April 2010 as part of an accelerated effort to secure civilian nuclear material worldwide.

    Given that the upcoming summit will be the final meeting in this format, the official said the United States hopes to “establish a mechanism to sustain momentum” on the nuclear security agenda.

    The summit participants, comprising 52 countries and four international organizations, are expected to endorse five action plans for key institutions and initiatives to carry on parts of the summit agenda. The action plans are for the United Nations, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Interpol, the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism (GICNT), and the Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction. 

    The action plans “will reflect the intent” of the participating states “to promote and enhance the nuclear security contributions” of these key organizations and initiatives, said the official.

    Although some observers have expressed concern that momentum on the nuclear security agenda will fade after the high-level political attention brought to the summit process ends, the White House official said that there are “many vehicles that can carry forward the senior-level engagement.” The official said that the “primary vehicle” would be the IAEA’s nuclear security meeting, scheduled to be held in Vienna at the ministerial level every three years.

    The IAEA held the first such meeting in July 2013. The second is scheduled for December 2016.

    The official said that, by “maximizing participation at the ministerial level and by developing a practice of announcing accomplishments and pledges at this meeting, the Summits’ momentum can be carried forward.”

    Beginning with the 2010 summit, participating countries were encouraged to announce actions they intended to take to enhance nuclear security. (See ACT, May 2010.) At the subsequent summits in 2012 and 2014, countries were encouraged to report on their progress and announce further commitments. (See ACT, April 2014; April 2012.)

    A German official said in a Feb. 18 email that “[t]here is consensus that nuclear security will remain a priority” after 2016.

    The official added that the “security of radioactive sources is of particular importance for Germany” and requires the country’s “full attention.”

    In a separate Feb. 18 email, a French official, asked whether there are nuclear security risks that the summit process has not adequately addressed, said “No.”

    The German official said that “[o]ne particular challenge” for the future “is to build up sustainable and robust protection” against cyberattacks for civilian nuclear power reactors and other nuclear installations. He said that the summit process has addressed the issue but that more work needed to be done.

    Accomplishments Since 2014

    One of the most tangible accomplishments of the summit process has been the acceleration of removals of highly enriched uranium (HEU) and, to a lesser extent, separated plutonium.

    Since the summit process began in 2010, the number of countries with weapons-usable nuclear material has dropped from 32 to 24, according to reports by the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI).

    The senior White House official noted that all HEU was removed from Switzerland and Uzbekistan since the 2014 summit in The Hague and said to expect new announcements on the removal of HEU and plutonium at the upcoming summit.

    Switzerland participates in the summit process, while Uzbekistan does not.

    The official also highlighted progress on ratifications of key nuclear security treaties as one of the significant accomplishments since the 2014 summit and noted that the United States completed ratification of the 2005 amendment to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material (CPPNM) and the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism in 2015. (See ACT, July/August 2015.)

    The CPPNM amendment expands the original treaty to require parties not only to protect nuclear material in international transit, but also to protect nuclear facilities and nuclear material that is in domestic storage, use, or transit. It is not yet in force.

    The anti-terrorism convention establishes a framework to strengthen cooperation among countries in combating nuclear terrorism and provides details on how offenders and illicit materials should be handled by states when seized.

    18_NEWS_NSS.jpgAlthough the summit process has spurred visible progress in securing and minimizing civilian HEU, some government officials and independent analysts have criticized the process for not focusing more intensively on reducing civilian stockpiles of separated plutonium and stockpiles of nuclear materials categorized for military uses and on increasing the transparency of these categories of materials.

    Global stocks of plutonium and HEU found outside civilian nuclear programs, such as material in noncivilian naval reactors or material declared excess to military needs and awaiting disposition, make up more than 80 percent of the global stockpile of weapons-usable material, according to an NTI report in November 2015.

    The White House official said some countries may address military materials or civilian plutonium stocks in their national progress reports or national statements at the summit. The official added that progress in these areas is “most likely to be made working directly with and among the small number of countries” who possess these materials rather than through a summit statement on behalf of all the participants.

    Russian Participation

    With the exception of Russia, all of the countries from the 2014 summit are expected to attend in 2016. Russia announced in 2014 that it would not attend the Washington meeting. (See ACT, December 2014.)

    The White House official said “the door remained open” for Russia to join the remaining preparatory process for the 2016 summit and that the United States “regret[s]” Moscow’s decision not to participate.

    The official added that Russia now has limited bilateral cooperation with the United States on nuclear security, but expressed the hope that Moscow will “deliver on its pledge to maintain the nuclear security improvements” the two countries have made since the end of the Cold War.

     Russia continues to work “constructively with the United States” on projects to remove nuclear materials from other countries and as a member of the GICNT, the official said.

    In September 2015, Russia worked with the U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration and the IAEA to remove Uzbekistan’s remaining stockpile of HEU. Russia and the United States co-chair the GICNT, a voluntary organization launched in 2006 to strengthen global abilities to prevent and respond to acts of nuclear terrorism. 

    The White House hopes to spur “further steps” at this month’s gathering in Washington. 

    U.S. Floats New Fissile Talks Formula

    March 2016

    By Daryl G. Kimball

    19_NEWS_Fismat.jpgIn an effort in January to break the years-long dispute blocking the start of negotiations at the Conference on Disarmament (CD), Nigeria, the CD president at the time, circulated an informal draft proposal for talks on fissile material issues formulated by the United States and backed by several other governments.

    To date, the proposal has not obtained the necessary consensus support in the 65-country CD, which is based in Geneva.

    The new proposal calls for the establishment of a working group to “negotiate an internationally and effectively verifiable treaty dealing with fissile material for use in nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices,” according to diplomatic sources.

    This formula would allow for talks on a treaty that would not only verifiably halt the further production of fissile material for nuclear weapons, but also take into account existing stockpiles of fissile materials for use in nuclear arms.

    In recent years, Pakistan has opposed negotiations on a treaty banning the production of fissile material unless the talks also address the issue of existing fissile material stockpiles.

    On Jan. 26, just days before the new proposal was put forward, Pakistan’s CD ambassador, Tehmina Janjua, complained that other states have not been “willing to include existing stocks of fissile material in the treaty’s negotiating mandate.”

    “A treaty that does not address the asymmetry in fissile material stocks…would adversely affect Pakistan’s vital interests,” Janjua said.

    Pakistan, its neighbor India, and North Korea are currently producing and stockpiling fissile materials (plutonium and highly enriched uranium) for nuclear weapons.

    France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States have publicly renounced fissile material production for weapons, while China is believed to have stopped such production. All have significant residual stockpiles. Israel is not believed to be actively producing fissile material for weapons.

    Several delegation heads welcomed the proposal. Patricia O’Brien of Ireland praised “the timely U.S. initiative” and its inclusion of existing stockpiles of fissile material in the negotiating mandate.

    “There is not more time to lose,” O’Brien said in a Feb. 2 statement to the CD.

    Since 1996, the member states of the CD have failed to agree on a common work plan for negotiations on four main issues: nuclear disarmament, a fissile material cutoff treaty, the prevention of an arms race in outer space, and negative security assurances. (See ACT, September 2015.)

    After consultations among states on the new proposal, Pakistan, along with China and Russia, blocked agreement, according to diplomatic sources familiar with the situation. Pakistan, according to one informed source, argued that the negotiating mandate must explicitly state that existing stocks would be considered rather than simply allowing for consideration of the issue.

    In response, Nigeria circulated a formal proposal for “discussions” on all four of the core agenda items. 

    This approach, however, elicited strong criticism from states that are impatient with the CD’s inability to launch negotiations, rather than discussions, on one or more agenda items.

    “Mere discussions can never be a substitute for ‘substantive work’ according to the CD mandate—that is, negotiating treaties to achieve and maintain a world without nuclear weapons,” argued Thomas Zehetner of Austria in a statement to the CD on Feb. 19.

    “We have seen efforts in recent weeks to start negotiations. We believe that we should continue with these efforts to strive for the adoption of a Program of Work that would result in the start of negotiations, not just an exchange of views,” Zehetner said.

    Efforts to resolve the impasse now fall to Norway, which takes over the CD presidency in March. 

    Inclusion of fissile stockpiles fails to break a deadlock at the Conference on Disarmament. 

    Global Partners to Pick Up Summit Work

    March 2016

    By Kelsey Davenport

    20_NEWS_GP.jpgA global initiative set up to prevent the spread of nonconventional weapons is poised to take on some of the work from the nuclear security summits, which will end this year, a senior U.S. official said in December.

    Bonnie Jenkins, the State Department’s coordinator for threat reduction programs, said in a Dec. 21 interview that at a December meeting in Kazakhstan, representatives from countries participating in the summit process were on their way to agreeing on an action plan to be submitted to leaders for approval at the March 31-April 1 nuclear security summit in Washington. The Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction will continue some of the summit work on securing nuclear and radiological materials worldwide.

     The Global Partnership, set up in 2002 by the Group of Eight (G-8) industrial countries, currently is comprised of 29 countries. Jenkins is the U.S. representative to the partnership.

     Originally, the partnership was a 10-year initiative focused on destroying stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in the former Soviet Union. In 2011, member countries decided to extend the initiative beyond 2012 and work on projects beyond the former Soviet Union. (See ACT, January/February 2013.)

    Continuing the work of the nuclear security summits, which are an initiative of President Barack Obama to secure weapons-usable material worldwide that began in 2010 and will end with the March 31-April 1 meeting, is part of the expanded mandate that members of the partnership approved in 2011.

    Ensuring continuity of the nuclear security summits’ work is a primary task for the states participating in that process as they prepare for this year’s summit.

    Participants plan to divide the work of the summits among five organizations—the United Nations, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Interpol, the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism, and the Global Partnership (see "Nuclear Summit Seeks Sustainable Results").

    An official familiar with a December draft of the Global Partnership’s action plan for continuing summit work said in a Feb. 1 email that the plan focuses on a number of areas designed to enhance national nuclear security regimes, including assisting and coordinating activities that reduce insider threats, providing assistance for enhancing security of radioactive sources, and coordinating programs and exercises on activities to counter nuclear smuggling.

    The official also said that the final version of the action plan could include language on support for consolidation and disposal of nuclear nuclear materials and assistance in upgrading capabilities in nuclear forensics.

    Long-Planned Transition

    Unlike the summits, which had a global focus, the partnership initially concentrated primarily on projects in the former Soviet Union. With the decision to expand the scope of the work and the geographic focus in 2011, Canada proposed a dedicated working group on nuclear and radiological security to ensure that the progress from the nuclear security summits would be carried out on the ground in a “comprehensive manner and would continue after the summits end,” a Canadian official said in a Dec. 15 interview.

    The partnership subsequently established that working group, along with groups on biological security, chemical security, and other issues.

    The official said Ottawa proposed the nuclear and radiological group because Canada saw a need for a “more coordinated and strategic approach” to enhancing nuclear material security after the decision to extend the partnership in 2011.

    Jenkins said that continuing the work of the summits should be the primary focus of this working group. 

    Canada proposed that the working group initially concentrate on areas such as physical protection of nuclear and radiological materials, strengthening of information security, prevention of illicit nuclear trafficking, and enhancement of nuclear security culture, the Canadian official said, noting that all of these areas are summit priorities.

    When the working group first met in 2013, the United Kingdom, which was chairing the group, decided to emphasize three principles, a UK official told Arms Control Today in a Dec. 17 email. He said the working group decided to operate on a “matchmaking” principle, meaning it would “connect expertise and funding with needs.” Complementing the work of existing organizations and projects and focusing on the target areas listed by Canada in the proposal, particularly enhancing nuclear security culture, also were priorities, he said.

    Since the initial meeting in 2013, the nuclear and radiological working group has carried out a number of projects using the matchmaking principle. These projects were detailed in the most recent comprehensive listing of the partnership’s activities.

    Sweden funded more than a dozen projects in Ukraine and Russia in 2013. These projects included enhancing physical protection at a Russian shipyard, training Ukrainian border guards, and assisting in establishing a national Ukrainian database for radioactive sources.  

    Canada funded a regional workshop for Central American countries in August 2013 that focused on the security of radioactive sources. Japan provided support for several workshops on nonproliferation and the peaceful uses of nuclear energy in several countries including Jordan, Turkey, and Vietnam.

    The United States, working with the IAEA, is funding an ongoing project to assist countries in the Middle East and North Africa in developing nuclear and radiological regulatory regimes. Another U.S.-funded project is working on radiation safety and a U.S.-Russian monitoring regime for shut-down plutonium production reactors in Russia.

    Japan currently chairs the nuclear and radiological working group and will set the priorities for the group in 2016. Japan also took over as chair of the entire Global Partnership from Germany in January.

    Jenkins said the partnership “has a full plate” and should therefore focus on strengthening and sustaining its current agenda, including the action plan from the upcoming nuclear security summit, rather than adding new priorities.


    Centers of Excellence

    The United States and Italy chair a working group focused on “centers of excellence” that is also involved with the nuclear security agenda. The centers serve as institutions for training individuals on a wide range of WMD-related security concerns.

    In the Dec. 21 interview, Jenkins said this working group concentrates on promoting security culture, sustaining the centers of excellence after the upcoming nuclear security summit, coordinating with the IAEA’s network for nuclear security centers, and finding ways to increase cooperation among centers. Most centers focus on nuclear security, Jenkins said, but several have chemical or biological mandates, making the working group on centers of excellence the only one that spans the WMD spectrum.

    For that reason, the working group also works on implementing UN Security Council Resolution 1540. Passed in 2004, the resolution requires states to take steps to prevent the spread of WMD materials, technologies, and delivery vehicles, particularly to nonstate actors.

    Jenkins said that implementing Resolution 1540 was part of the expanded mandate of the partnership but, until now, little work had been done in this area.

    She said that in January the working group would meet in Tokyo to consider how it can support projects designed to implement obligations under the resolution and support the planned review conference on Resolution 1540, which is to take place in the winter of 2017.

    Biological and Chemical Weapons Work

    Jenkins said the biological security working group, which was the first one formed after the 2011 expansion decision, is heavily involved with the Global Health Security Agenda. That initiative is designed to help prevent the spread of infectious diseases worldwide and promote global health security.

    In 2014, countries participating in the global health effort agreed on 11 “action packages” to achieve these goals. The partnership is heavily involved in implementing a few of the action packages, particularly the package on biosecurity and biosafety, Jenkins said.

    The goals of the package include ensuring that pathogens are transferred safely, personnel are trained to mitigate the deliberate or accidental use of pathogens, and dangerous pathogens are identified, secured, and monitored in a minimal number of facilities.

    Jenkins said the working group on chemical weapons agreed last year on a strategic plan that prioritizes chemical weapons security and responses to the use of chemical weapons. The United States and Canada will chair the working group in 2016 and continue the focus on those areas, she said.

    Jenkins said the involvement of the chemical industry is an important part of the chemical weapons working group’s strategic plan because the industry works with many of the precursors for chemical weapons and therefore can help ensure the security and safe transfer of such materials. Industry representatives actively participate in the working group’s meetings, she said.

    Jenkins noted that all of the work done to destroy the chemical weapons removed from Syria was done by Global Partnership countries.             


    A fifth working group, chaired by Canada and the Netherlands, is focused on bringing new member states into the partnership. The most recent additions to the partnership are Chile, Hungary, and Portugal.

    Jenkins said that a number of countries have expressed interest in joining the initiative and that the partnership is particularly looking to add members from Africa and the Middle East. Neither region is currently represented.

    Russia’s participation in the partnership ended when the other members of the G-8 suspended Moscow’s membership in 2014 in response to the Russian annexation of Crimea. Jenkins said Russia’s absence is unfortunate but that the partnership continues to make strides in its work. 

    Officials are crafting an action plan ahead of the nuclear security summit. 

    Verification Partnership Coalesces

    March 2016

    By Daniel Horner and Kelsey Davenport

    Updated: March 4, 2016

    22_NEWS_Verify.JPGAn initiative involving more than two dozen countries has put in place its working groups and has begun its effort to bolster international capabilities for verifying future arms control agreements, officials from the United States and non-nuclear-weapon states said in interviews and email exchanges over the past few months.

    A key part of the effort is to expand and develop ways in which nuclear-weapon states can interact with non-nuclear-weapon states in pursuing verification issues.

    Rose Gottemoeller, U.S. undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, launched the International Partnership for Nuclear Disarmament Verification in a speech in Prague in December 2014, calling it a “nontraditional partnership” to “better understand the technical problems of verifying nuclear disarmament and to develop solutions.”

    Since then, the partnership has held a kickoff meeting last March in Washington and a plenary meeting in November in Oslo, where it formed three working groups. The groups, which deal with monitoring and verification, on-site inspections, and current and future verification technologies, met in Geneva last month.

    In a Dec. 10 interview at the State Department, Frank Rose, assistant secretary of state for arms control, verification, and compliance, said the working groups are the “driving engine” of the partnership in its quest to “find technical solutions to future problems.” He said each of the working groups was open to all members of the partnership.

    Rose said the idea for the partnership came from a 2014 study of verification issues by the private Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI). The study drove home the point that an array of countries, not just the ones with nuclear weapons, would have to work to improve international verification capacity to be prepared for future nuclear arms control agreements, Rose said. That led to a collaboration between the State Department and the NTI, he said.

    Andrew Bieniawski, NTI vice president for material security and minimization, participated in the Dec. 10 interview and emphasized that the partnership is an “action-driven, deliverables-driven, results-driven initiative,” pointing to the detailed requirements in the terms of reference for the three working groups.

    Rose said the partnership’s work is “all going to be done at the unclassified level” and that the goal is to publish the key documents online.

    Broad Participation Stressed

    Like Rose and Bieniawski, working group chairs and other participants cited the interaction between nuclear- and non-nuclear-weapon states as an important element of the partnership. In a Feb. 3 email, Robert Floyd of Australia, director-general of the Australian Safeguards and Non-proliferation Office and co-chair of the on-site inspections working group, said, “Nuclear weapon possessor states need to be part of [verification] work, but I don’t think they have a monopoly on good ideas or [are] the only group of states to want confidence in the verification.”

    Table 1In a Feb. 4 interview, Kurt Siemon, director for nuclear verification in the U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration and co-chair of the working group on technical issues, said the approach would be to “listen to the views of everyone in the room” rather than asking participants to “pick and choose from a menu” that the United States has produced.

    María Antonieta Jáquez, deputy director-general for disarmament in the Mexican Ministry for Foreign Affairs, said in a Feb. 16 email that the partnership “has provided a very good space” for dialogue between nuclear- and non-nuclear-weapon states. That, she said, “is very welcome” amid the widespread “frustration with the lack of progress in nuclear disarmament” by the nuclear-weapon states and the resulting “very divided” discussions on that subject.

    Preparing for the Future

    A central challenge for the partnership is that its mission is to develop technologies that will meet the needs of future agreements that are hypothetical. 

    Jens Wirstam of Sweden, deputy research director of the Swedish Defense Research Agency and co-chair of the working group on technical issues, said in a Feb. 2 email that the problem is not insurmountable because some elements of verification will be “indifferent to the specifics” of any future agreement. For example, he said, any verification system will have to be able to confirm that an inspected item is one that is limited by the relevant treaty rather than being a mere mock-up. He also cited the need to maintain a chain of custody. Beyond elements such as those, he said he hoped the partnership would create “a set of different building blocks…that could be assembled differently in different contexts.”

    In the interview, Bieniawski said the “whole life cycle” of a warhead is within the scope of the partnership but that the partners had agreed that the focus for the first 18 to 24 months would be on the nuclear warhead dismantlement process and the monitored storage of the resulting nuclear materials.                 

    Political, Technical Elements

    In their email correspondence, the members of key delegations gave varying degrees of weight to the technical and policy components of the undertaking.

    In his Jan. 29 email, Col. Marek Sobótka of Poland, co-chair of the group on on-site inspections, highlighted the interplay between the two aspects. The partnership is a technical exercise in that it is directed toward “finding practical ways for cooperation” between nuclear- and non-nuclear-weapon states to create a set of tools that is “ready to use” in designing and verifying “a new future nuclear disarmament treaty,” wrote Sobótka, head of the nonproliferation and disarmament policy division in Poland’s defense ministry. But he said that if the results of the partnership’s work are “properly presented,” they “will prove to the broad international community how complex and difficult” it will be to achieve the goal of nuclear disarmament.

    Floyd, Sobótka’s co-chair, summarized the relationship between the two elements by saying, “The tasks of the working groups definitely have a technical focus, but verification must be framed with political objectives in mind.”

    Wirstam said that, from his standpoint as co-chair of the group on technical issues, “this is a technical exercise, and in a sense[,] a bottom-up approach where we have the answers to the technical questions” and then “policy catches up.” In that way, he said, “there is a parallel to the earlier process leading up to the [Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty], where work on the technical issues was done over an extended period of time before the political conditions matured.”

    Classification Issues

    A question underlying much of the partnership’s work is how to carry out useful sharing that does not touch on sensitive information.

    In a Jan. 27 email to Arms Control Today, Piet de Klerk, ambassador at large for the Netherlands and co-chair of the monitoring and verification working group, said the ability of the group to navigate classification issues “is the crux of the matter.” A key question, he said, is, “What can you show to outsiders…so that they can draw credible conclusions about disarmament steps without violati[ng] classification rules?” As he noted, under the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), the nuclear-weapon states are prohibited from sharing information with non-nuclear-weapon states about making nuclear weapons.

    One of the goals of the working group dealing with on-site inspections is to identify “[w]ays in which verification objectives can be achieved notwithstanding limitations related to safety, security, national interests and non-proliferation inherent in the operations of different types of military, nuclear, and explosive facilities, including through the application of managed access.”

    “Managed access” refers to a practice in which the inspecting party and the inspected party negotiate the extent of the inspectors’ access to sensitive areas.

    In his Feb. 3 email, Floyd said, “Good managed access rules can go a long way toward resolving differences over inspector access in the field, but a critical balance between inspection intrusiveness and protection of national interests will have to be struck during future negotiations on treaty instruments.”

    In the Dec. 10 interview, Rose and Bieniawski emphasized the work of a UK-Norwegian initiative on dismantlement verification. That effort, which began in 2007, is considered pioneering in the way it brought together a nuclear-weapon state and a non-nuclear-weapon state to collaborate on verification issues. In one of the exercises, Norway played the role of the nuclear-weapon state and the United Kingdom played the non-nuclear-weapon state, an example of the way the project was mutually beneficial and was able to navigate the classification issues successfully, Rose said.

    The international partnership is going to build on the UK-Norwegian initiative, but go “much deeper,” Bieniawski said.          

    Membership Could Expand

    Asked about the members of the partnership, a State Department spokesman said in a email exchange last month that, in addition to the five countries that the NPT recognizes as nuclear-weapon states—China, France, Russia, the UK, and the United States—Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Finland, Germany, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Mexico, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, South Korea, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, the Vatican, and the European Union have “attended the various activities” of the partnership.

    Some of the sources interviewed for this article indicated that China and Russia, at least officially, have hung back from full participation in some of the activities.

    South Africa, which built nuclear weapons and then, in the late 1980s and early 1990s, dismantled them and joined the NPT as a non-nuclear-weapon state, is not a member. The State Department spokesman said, “South Africa’s technical expertise and its own disarmament record would make it a valued addition” to the effort.

    The partnership also does not include India, Israel, or Pakistan, nuclear-armed states that have remained outside the NPT. In the interview, Rose said NPT membership is not a specific requirement but that “all current members of the partnership are members of the NPT.”

    Rose said the focus for the initial membership was countries that had expressed an interest in verification and could provide technical expertise. Some of the invited countries did not accept, he said.

    He said that, at the partnership’s plenary meeting last November, the countries did not come to agreement on the issue of membership expansion but agreed to discuss it at the next plenary, scheduled for June in Tokyo.

    The officials interviewed differed on the importance of expanding the membership. Some argued for inclusion of the non-NPT nuclear-armed states and greater representation of Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Some said there was no need to expand the partnership in the immediate future. Sobótka said that a “smaller number of participants will inevitably result in obtaining relatively quick progress in developing a solid foundation” for the partnership, “which should further increase its attractiveness to potential new members in future.”

    Note: After this article was posted online, the State Department released information indicating that the Tokyo plenary will take place in June. The article has been updated to reflect that information.

    Countries with and without nuclear arms are part of the effort. 

    Countries Pledge Renewed CTBT Effort

    March 2016

    By Daryl G. Kimball and Shervin Taheran

    24_NEWS_CTBT.jpgIn the wake of North Korea’s nuclear test explosion on Jan. 6, diplomats from several states have announced they will intensify efforts to accelerate progress toward entry into force of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), which was opened for signature two decades ago.

    Cristian Istrate, permanent representative of Romania to the international organizations in Vienna and chair of the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO), said on Jan. 25 in remarks delivered at a symposium in Vienna that plans are in motion for a “high-level ministerial meeting” during the organization’s scheduled June 13-15 meeting in Vienna. In addition to the foreign ministers, the meeting will involve UN officials, independent experts, and the media, Istrate said.

    The high-level meeting “is an ambitious and good idea,” French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said in remarks Feb. 1 following a meeting with CTBTO Executive Secretary Lassina Zerbo in Paris, according to the CTBTO.

    Citing the Jan. 6 North Korean test and the impending 20th anniversary of the CTBT, Zerbo said in a Jan. 27 column in Le Monde that “it is imperative to redouble efforts” to get “real results” with regard to the CTBT’s entry into force.

    Since the CTBT was opened for signature in 1996, 183 states have signed and 164 have ratified the treaty, including 36 of the 44 states referenced in Annex 2 of the treaty as being required for entry into force. The eight states listed in Annex 2 that have not ratified the treaty are China, Egypt, India, Iran, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan, and the United States.

    At the Vienna symposium, several government officials and nongovernmental experts suggested the treaty could serve as a confidence-building measure in the Middle East.

    Israel’s representative in Vienna, Merav Zafary-Odiz, said in remarks at the symposium that a regional moratorium on nuclear testing “could enhance security and potentially lead to a future ratification of the CTBT.” She said that “Israel has announced its commitment to a moratorium” and that “it would be useful for others to do the same.” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu signed the CTBT in 1996, but the country has not ratified the pact.

    Other symposium speakers underscored the importance of U.S. leadership on treaty ratification decisions by other Annex 2 states.

    Siddharth Varadarajan, a veteran Indian journalist, argued that U.S. ratification is essential to secure ratification by at least three other countries—China, India, and Pakistan.

    “Pakistan will not sign and ratify the CTBT as the smallest and weakest of the nuclear-armed states before India does, India will not do the same until China does, and the Chinese will not do it until the U.S. does,” Varadarajan said in his Jan. 26 remarks.

    The Obama administration has said it is undertaking an effort “to reopen and re-energize the conversation about the treaty on Capitol Hill and throughout [the] nation,” as Secretary of State John Kerry put it last October. (See ACT, November 2015.)

    Since then, State Department officials have been delivering speeches to audiences in several states, including Alaska, Colorado, Illinois, Mississippi, New Mexico, and Utah, on the benefits of a test ban.

    In a Feb. 4 interview with the Albuquerque Journal during a visit to New Mexico, Rose Gottemoeller, undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, said she was working “to get the American public again focused on the value of the CTBT to our national security.”

    “We made a pass at ratifying the treaty back in 1999, and at the time…there wasn’t, I think, the clear knowledge that we could maintain a safe, secure and effective nuclear stockpile without testing. The situation has changed quite a bit in the ensuing 17 years,” Gottemoeller said.

    But she made clear that the administration was not pushing for a vote. “I don’t think [President Barack Obama] is unrealistic about trying to rush things through in 2016, but he definitely wants to lay some solid groundwork in the hope that the treaty, if it is not taken up in 2016, it can be taken up in the near future,” she said in the interview.

    Some senators, including New Mexico’s Tom Udall (D) and Martin Heinrich (D), have expressed their support, saying they believe the technical questions surrounding the treaty have been addressed. The CTBT “is an important element of global nonproliferation efforts, and I believe the United States should ratify it,” Udall told the Albuquerque Journal on Feb. 4.

    In a Feb. 3 article, Roll Call quoted Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) as saying that “there’s been no discussion” on holding a vote on the CTBT in his committee. 

    Diplomats want a renewed, “high-level” push as the treaty’s 20th anniversary nears.


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