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ACA’s journal, Arms Control Today, remains the best in the market. Well focused. Solidly researched. Prudent.

– Hans Blix,
former IAEA Director-General

Strategic Missile Defense

International Support for the Iran Nuclear Deal

International support for the 2015 nuclear deal between the P5+1 (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States) and Iran remains strong, despite comments by U.S. President Donald Trump threatening the future of the agreement. The Arms Control Association will be adding international statements in support of the nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), on this page as they are released. May 2018: General Australia Australia is disappointed that the United States has announced its withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (...

The Perils of Space-Based Missile Defense Interception

Past U.S. efforts to develop and deploy a space-based missile defense have known many names, including "Strategic Defense Initiative,” “Brilliant Pebbles,” and “Global Protection Against Limited Strikes.” And all have suffered the same fate: cancellation due to insurmountable financial, technical, and strategic obstacles. But like a zombie that can’t be killed, the idea keeps coming back. Senator Ted Cruz wrote a letter Feb. 22 calling for a space-based capability to intercept ballistic missiles (SBI) in “boost phase,” when a missile is “traveling its slowest, emitting its clearest heat...

THAAD Debated in South Korea

South Korea’s presidential contenders are injecting a degree of uncertainty into high-priority U.S. plans to deploy the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system to counter the missile threat from North Korea.

March 2017

South Korea’s presidential contenders are injecting a degree of uncertainty into high-priority U.S. plans to deploy the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system to counter the missile threat from North Korea. The pending deployment in South Korea is among key campaign issues in the election that may be held within months, depending on the Constitutional Court’s ruling on the impeachment of conservative President Park Geun-hye. 

South Korean anti-war activists hold placards February 2 during a rally against the visit of U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis in Seoul, as they protest the planned U.S. deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system in South Korea. (Photo credit: Jung Yeon-Je/AFP/Getty Images)Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn, acting president since the National Assembly voted to impeach Park in December and among the leading declared or anticipated candidates to succeed her, reportedly stood by the deployment plans during talks Feb. 2 in Seoul with new U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis. But opposition party figures with strong showings in early polls are ambiguous about what actions they favor. Moon Jae-in, former chairman of the primary opposition Minjoo Party and the recent polling front-runner, has criticized the deployment plan as a unilateral decision of the Park administration and has called for a review, emphasizing strong Chinese opposition. 

Behind Moon in the polls is the Minjoo Party’s Ahn Hee-jung, who said in January that the Park administration’s decision was “foolish” and who favors more discussion, also emphasized Chinese and Russian opposition. Another Minjoo Party hopeful, Lee Jae-myung, has called for canceling the THAAD plans to maintain “independence” from the United States. 

This debate has intensified following North Korea’s Feb. 12 test of its Pukguksong-2 missile, which drew broad condemnation from presidential candidates. China has strongly objected to the anticipated THAAD deployment, saying the system’s radar could be configured for use against China’s missiles, and has threatened economic actions to penalize South Korea if the deployment proceeds.

Posted: March 1, 2017

The Complex and Increasingly Dangerous Nuclear Weapons Geometry of Asia

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Asian states Pakistan, India, China, and North Korea comprise four of the world's nine nuclear-armed states. The interconnections of these countries must be considered to fully understand how nuclear nonproliferation can be influenced.

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By Greg Thielmann
July 2016

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While much of the world’s attention is focused on efforts to halt the nuclear and missile tests of North Korea, the nuclear arsenals and ambitions of India, Pakistan, and China also pose significant dangers and deserve more attention.

The complicated nuclear weapons geometry of Asia extends from the subcontinent to the other side of the world. While Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal is designed to counter India’s conventional and nuclear forces, New Delhi measures its own nuclear weapons program against that of China. Beijing, in turn, judges the adequacy of its nuclear arsenal against the threat it perceives from the United States’ strategic offensive and defensive capabilities. And in its efforts to mitigate the ballistic missile threat from North Korea, the United States and its allies in the region are expanding their strategic and theater missile defense capabilities.

In order to fully understand how the pace and direction of nuclear proliferation can be influenced, the interconnections of these countries must be considered, along with the kinds of nuclear weapons they have at their disposal.

Posted: July 27, 2016

Iran Nuclear Deal Creates Opportunity for Adapting Missile Defenses

Although there are many challenges ahead for successful implementation of the Iran nuclear deal reached on July 14, it is not too soon to contemplate some of the wider effects of that agreement. At the top of the list should be the opportunity it affords to make adjustments to the shape of U.S. ballistic missile defense programs, adapting program content to the evolving threat. For more than a decade, U.S. missile defense efforts have been driven by the threats from existing and future North Korean and Iranian ballistic missiles. Now, the July 14 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and...

Mixed Messages on Missile Defense

The Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff delivered an unusually clear and coherent speech on U.S. missile defense polic y at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) May 19 in Washington. Although Adm. James A. Winnefeld, Jr. emphasized in his remarks that U.S. missile defenses should be of no concern to Russia or China, it is easy to see how parts of his comprehensive presentation could be viewed from Moscow or Beijing as hypocritical, or at least deeply ironic. Not About Russia and China During his presentation, Winnefeld reiterated the long-standing position of the...

Removing the Missile Defense Obstacle to Deeper Nuclear Cuts

It has been obvious for decades that advances in strategic ballistic missile defenses can complicate efforts to maintain a balance in strategic offensive forces while reducing overall nuclear arsenals. The two Cold War superpowers addressed this problem by negotiating the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty in 1972, which limited the breadth and scope of ballistic missile defense (BMD) deployments. But U.S. withdrawal from the ABM Treaty in 2002 and enthusiastic pursuit of BMD by the United States has again brought the negative impact of missile defense on nuclear arms control efforts to the...

Missile Defense Test Scrapped

The Defense Department said it no longer plans to conduct a flight-intercept test of the Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system scheduled for next summer.

December 2014

By Kingston Reif

The Defense Department said it no longer plans to conduct a flight-intercept test of the Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system scheduled for next summer.

Richard Lehner, a spokesman for the department’s Missile Defense Agency, told InsideDefense.com in October that the test has been replaced with “a developmental non-intercept test” designed to assess interceptor “thruster performance” and “improved discrimination performance.” In a Dec. 2 e-mail to Arms Control Today, Lehner said this test would “provid[e] data that will improve and enhance system reliability.”

The GMD system is designed to protect the United States from limited missile attacks by Iran and North Korea. A total of 30 interceptors are currently deployed in Alaska and California. The Pentagon is planning to deploy an additional 14 interceptors in Alaska by the end of 2017.

Plagued by cost overruns and test failures, the system successfully intercepted a target in a June 22 test. This was the first successful intercept test since 2008 and the first using the Capability Enhancement II (CE-II) kill vehicle. (See ACT, July/August 2014.) The kill vehicle sits atop the booster rocket and is intended to collide with a target in outer space.

The test that was canceled was scheduled to be another intercept test of the CE-II. Laura Grego, a senior scientist with the Union of Concerned Scientists, wrote in a Nov. 3 blog post that the decision to scrap that exercise could mean that the June 22 test “was not as successful as assumed.” Grego noted that the next intercept test of the GMD system now is not scheduled until the summer of 2016, leaving a two-year gap between intercept attempts.

In a Nov. 22 e-mail to Arms Control Today, Philip Coyle, former director of weapons testing for the Defense Department, said that, with the test cancellation, “the GMD program will be in limbo for years longer, lacking regular, contemporary flight intercept test results to guide development.”

Posted: December 4, 2014

Strategic Missile Defense: A Threat to Future Nuclear Arms Reductions?

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With Russia’s ratification of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), the stage is now set for new discussions between Washington and Moscow on further steps toward reducing the two states’ enormous nuclear arsenals that together comprise more than 90 percent of total nuclear weapons worldwide.  Based on statements in Russia’s ratification documents and the statements of Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, continued U.S.-Russian disagreements on missile defenses threaten to undermine those future talks.  U.S. policymakers need to consider ways to prevent strategic missile defense system development and deployment from becoming an obstacle to progress in enhancing stability and reducing nuclear dangers. In his latest Threat Assessment Brief, ACA’s senior fellow Greg Thielmann analyzes the nature of the U.S.-Russian missile defense challenge.

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January 26, 2011
By Greg Thielmann

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With Russia’s ratification of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), the stage is now set for new discussions between Washington and Moscow on further steps toward reducing the two states’ enormous nuclear arsenals that together comprise more than 90 percent of total nuclear weapons worldwide.  Based on statements in Russia’s ratification documents and the statements of Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, continued U.S.-Russian disagreements on missile defenses threaten to undermine those future talks.  U.S. policymakers need to consider ways to prevent strategic missile defense system development and deployment from becoming an obstacle to progress in enhancing stability and reducing nuclear dangers. In his latest Threat Assessment Brief, ACA’s senior fellow Greg Thielmann analyzes the nature of the U.S.-Russian missile defense challenge.

Country Resources:

Posted: January 26, 2011

News Briefs

Indonesia to Ratify Test Ban Treaty

Meri Lugo

Indonesia will begin proceedings to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), Foreign Minister R. M. Marty M. Natalegawa announced May 3. “Indonesia is initiating the process of the ratification,” he said during Indonesia’s opening statement at the 2010 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty Review Conference at the United Nations. “It is our fervent hope that this further demonstration of our commitment to the nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation agenda will encourage other countries that have not ratified the treaty to do the same,” he added.

Indonesia is one of nine remaining “Annex 2” states whose ratifications are required for the treaty to enter into force; the other eight are China, Egypt, India, Iran, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan, and the United States. Under Annex 2 of the CTBT, 44 specified countries must ratify the treaty to bring it into force.

Indonesia signed the CTBT in 1996, on the first day it was opened for signature.

During a speech in Washington last June, then-Indonesian Foreign Minister Hassan Wirajuda announced that Indonesia would ratify the CTBT as soon as the United States did so. Explaining the policy change at a May 4 press conference, Natalegawa said Indonesia hoped that its decision would “be a positive incentive for other states to follow suit.”

In their opening statements at the review conference, several speakers applauded Indonesia’s new policy. Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization Executive Secretary Tibor Tóth said May 6 that “the announcement is of crucial importance in moving the treaty closer to entry into force, and underscores the leadership role of Indonesia in regional and global nonproliferation and disarmament efforts.”

In a May 4 statement, President Barack Obama thanked Indonesia “for its responsible leadership in the global effort to reinforce the nuclear nonproliferation regime.”

In April 2009, Obama pledged to pursue U.S. ratification of the CTBT and is expected to do so after Senate consideration of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty.

Meanwhile, Trinidad and Tobago and the Central African Republic deposited their instruments of ratification for the CTBT on May 26, bringing the total number of ratifications to 153.


 

U.S. to Give Missile Launch Notifications

Volha Charnysh

The United States has agreed to provide prelaunch notification for the majority of its ballistic missile and satellite launches, officials said last month.

The United States sent a confidential note to the secretariat of the Hague Code of Conduct Against Ballistic Missile Proliferation (HCOC), Peter Launsky-Tieffenthal, spokesman for the Austrian Foreign Ministry, which coordinates HCOC information exchanges, said in a May 25 interview.

The U.S. move, which was first reported by the Associated Press, was “a confidence-building measure,” he said.

Under the HCOC, which has 130 members and is the most wide-ranging international agreement on missile proliferation, countries make a nonbinding commitment to provide prelaunch notifications on ballistic missile and space-launch vehicle launches. Although the United States has regularly provided the HCOC with annual reports, it has never supplied prelaunch notifications through the code. Moscow stopped notifying HCOC members of its ballistic missile launches in 2008 on the grounds that some current members have not been issuing prelaunch notifications. (See ACT, March 2008.)

A U.S. Department of State official said in a May 28 interview that Washington had recently completed a review of its policy on prelaunch notifications and decided to issue such notifications of commercial and NASA space launches, as well as “the majority” of its intercontinental and submarine-launched ballistic missile launches using the HCOC process. The United States had been abiding by the December 2000 Memorandum of Understanding on Notifications of Missile Launches with Russia instead of the HCOC, he said. Consistent with its position at the time of the HCOC’s creation in November 2002, the United States will “on rare occasions” withhold launch information on certain ballistic missiles or space-launch vehicles, he said.

Launsky-Tieffenthal said the U.S. prenotification plans were to be further discussed at the next regular meeting of the HCOC, scheduled for May 31-June 1.


 

Landmine Review Garners Congressional Support

Jeff Abramson

Sixty-eight senators last month expressed support for the Obama administration’s review of U.S. landmine policy as well as a potential presidential decision that would lead to joining an international treaty banning their use.

In a May 18 letter, the senators said, “We are confident that through a thorough, deliberative review, the Administration can identify any obstacles to joining the Convention and develop a plan to overcome them as soon as possible.”

The senators were referring to the 1997 Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on Their Destruction, also known as the Mine Ban Treaty. Before the United States could join the treaty, at least two-thirds of the Senate—67, if all 100 senators are present—would have to support it. Treaty advocates said the 68 signatures on the letter make a decision to join the treaty easier for the administration.

Key members of Senate committees, including Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-Mass.) and ranking member Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) and Senate Arms Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.), signed the letter, which was circulated by Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and George Voinovich (R-Ohio). Obama received a similar letter from 57 House members.

In 2009 the administration announced it would conduct a comprehensive review of landmine policy and attended a meeting of treaty states-parties for the first time. (See ACT, December 2009.) That review is ongoing, and the administration has not indicated whether it plans to join the treaty.

Under a policy inherited by the Obama administration, the United States this year will forswear use of persistent mines, also known as “dumb mines,” but retain so-called smart mines, those equipped with self-destruct mechanisms. Both types of mines are prohibited by the treaty. So called “command-detonated” mines, which require an operator to detonate them intentionally, are permitted.


 

UK Ratifies Cluster Munitions Convention

Jeff Abramson

The United Kingdom, a key U.S. ally and past user and producer of cluster munitions, ratified the Convention on Cluster Munitions May 4, becoming the 11th NATO member to do so. Since February, when the treaty met its minimum number of 30 ratifications needed to set an entry-into-force date, Ecuador, Samoa, and the Seychelles have also ratified the accord, bringing total ratifications to 34. In April, Mauritania signed it, raising the total number of signatories to 106.

 

Posted: June 4, 2010

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