Russia's foreign minister and the U.S. Secretary of State discussed the implementation of international sanctions against North Korea following Pyongyang's reported nuclear test two weeks ago, the Russian Foreign Ministry said Sunday.
Sergei Lavrov met with Condoleezza Rice October 21 during a working visit by the U.S. Secretary of State to Russia.
"While discussing topical international issues, the parties focused on the specific aspects of implementing UN Security Council Resolution 1718 due to nuclear tests conducted in North Korea," the press office of the Russian Foreign Ministry said.
Rice visited the capitals of South Korea, Japan and China earlier this week as part of a crisis tour to press for the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1718, imposing weapons and financial sanctions on Pyongyang in the wake of the reclusive regime's October 9 announcement it had successfully tested a nuclear device. Russia supported the sanctions, but spoke against using military force against North Korea.
During their meeting, Lavrov and Rice also discussed the Iran nuclear issue, the Middle East settlement, the situation in Iraq and Trans-Caucasus, especially in the light of the latest UN Security Council resolution on Georgia, the press office said.
The UN Security Council adopted October 13 the Russia-proposed resolution, which urges the ex-Soviet country to refrain from provocative actions in its breakaway region of Abkhazia and extended Russia's peacekeeping mandate in the region until April 2007.
During their meeting, Lavrov and Rice also discussed the topical issues of Russia-U.S. relations, including control over the implementation of accords reached at a summit of the presidents of Russia and the U.S. in St. Petersburg in July 2006, and also in the context of forthcoming contacts at the highest level, the ministry's press office said.
1. U.N. Official Says Iran Is Testing New Enrichment Device
New York Times
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The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency said Monday that Iran had begun testing new uranium enrichment equipment that could double the capacity of its small research-and-development facilities.
The action appears to be a signal to the United Nations Security Council that Iran would respond to sanctions by speeding ahead with its nuclear program.
Since February, when Iran publicly celebrated its first production of enriched uranium, progress at its main nuclear complex at Natanz has reportedly been slow. Iran has sporadically operated a single ï¿½cascadeï¿½ of 164 centrifuges, the devices that spin at high speed and turn ordinary uranium into a fuel usable for nuclear power plants ï¿½ or, at higher enrichment levels, nuclear weapons.
Those reports had prompted speculation that Iranian engineers had run into considerable technical difficulties.
But in an interview on Monday, Mohamed ElBaradei, the director general of the I.A.E.A., said that ï¿½based on our most recent inspections, the second centrifuge cascade is in place and ready to go.ï¿½ He said that no uranium had yet been entered into the new system, but could be as early as next week.
Even with two cascades running, it would take Iran years to enrich enough uranium to produce a single nuclear weapon.
The United States director of national intelligence, John D. Negroponte, has said repeatedly that he believes Tehran is 4 to 10 years away from developing a weapon, even though its technology base is far more advanced than that of North Korea, which conducted a nuclear test 15 days ago.
Unlike North Korea, Iran has insisted that it does not intend to build a weapon. Nonetheless, Iran ignored an Aug. 31 deadline, set by the Security Council, to stop enriching uranium.
Since then, European nations, China, Russia and the United States have been debating what sanctions, if any, should be imposed. China and Russia have resisted, and in a speech on Monday at Georgetown Universityï¿½s School of Foreign Service, Dr. ElBaradei made clear that he believes sanctions are unlikely to work.
ï¿½Penalizing them is not a solution,ï¿½ he said. ï¿½At the end of the day, we have to bite the bullet and talk to North Korea and Iran.ï¿½
Unlike American officials, he says that he remains unpersuaded that Iranï¿½s ultimate goal is to build a weapon, though I.A.E.A. officials say they believe that Iran wants to have all of the major components of a weapon in hand so that it is clear that it could build one in weeks or months.
ï¿½The jury is still out on whether they are developing a nuclear weapon,ï¿½ Dr. ElBaradei said at Georgetown, after meeting earlier in the day with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
After the meeting, Sean McCormack, the State Department spokesman, said there was now ï¿½widespread agreement, although not total agreement,ï¿½ on elements of an initial sanctions package. He did not speculate about when the sanctions might come to a vote; at the end of the summer, administration officials insisted that the Security Council would act in September.
Mr. McCormack said the Iranians seemed to be moving ahead ï¿½inexorably at this point,ï¿½ so that at some point ï¿½you will have industrial-scale production.ï¿½
ï¿½You donï¿½t want that,ï¿½ he said.
Some European diplomats have expressed concern that, should the Security Council act, the moderates in the Iranian government who have been involved in negotiations over the nuclear program could be shoved aside, and that some combination of military leaders and hard-line mullahs would push the country to speed its nuclear production.
Iran offered Saturday to talk with the West about its disputed nuclear program days before the U.S. and its partners are expected to circulate a draft resolution providing for limited sanctions against Tehran.
But prospects for any U.N. action dimmed as Russia declared it will not support measures to punish Iran or ``promote ideas of regime change there.''
``Any measures of influence should encourage creating conditions for talks,'' Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said in an interview with Kuwait's news agency.
A draft resolution on Iran is expected to be introduced in the U.N. Security Council within days, and diplomats have said they would seek limited sanctions against Tehran for refusing to suspend uranium enrichment.
``We won't be able to support and will oppose any attempts to use the Security Council to punish Iran or use Iran's program in order to promote the ideas of regime change there,'' Lavrov said in the interview, which was posted Saturday on the Russian Foreign Ministry's Web site.
Russia - along with the U.S., France, China and Britain - has veto power on the 15-nation Security Council and could block sanctions.
French Defense Minister Michele Alliot-Marie also indicated that support for sanctions was showing signs of ebbing, saying Friday that pressure could be lifted if Iran takes steps toward resolving questions over its nuclear program.
Lavrov's Iranian counterpart, Manouchehr Mottaki, offered to hold discussions with the West during which his government would explain its nuclear ambitions.
``Dialogue is the best way to reach an understanding,'' Mottaki said. ``We are ready to hold talks about the reason for enrichment.''
Uranium enrichment is a key process that can produce either fuel for a nuclear reactor or the material for a warhead. Tehran says its uranium enrichment program aims only to generate electricity, while the United States and others suspect it's a cover for building atomic weapons.
Mottaki did not suggest a time or venue for the discussions, and Western capitals issued no response. The offer could complicate the U.S.-led drive for sanctions against Iran, but it was unlikely to halt it.
Still, Motakki's invitation gave the Security Council - already saddled with the issue of North Korea's more-advanced nuclear program - a possible out.
North Korea joined the elite club of nuclear-armed nations on Oct. 9, with its underground nuclear test. The Security Council imposed sanctions on Pyongyang days later.
That rebuke followed only a few days of debate. The council has been considering Iran's case since February.
Lavrov also prodded the U.S. on that front Saturday, urging Washington and Pyongyang to settle bilateral problems to pave the way for the resumption of six-way talks on North Korea's nuclear program.
On Iran, he said international efforts should focus on forcing Tehran to cooperate more closely with the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog.
``There is no proof that Iran is pursuing a military nuclear program. There are suspicions and questions that have not yet been answered,'' Lavrov said.
Russia is constructing Iran's first nuclear reactor, at a power plant in Bushehr. The United States has long warned the reactor could aid Iran in developing nuclear weapons.
Russia is to begin sending fuel to the plant by March. But depleted fuel rods from the plant are to be returned to Russia - an arrangement aimed at preventing Iran from potentially extracting plutonium from them.
Lavrov met with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in Moscow Saturday, but neither official commented on the results of the talks, in which the Iranian nuclear controversy was certain to be a key issue.
France, co-sponsor of a possible resolution against Iran, indicated Friday it might be willing to suspend the drive for sanctions if Iran takes steps toward resolving questions over its nuclear program.
``If Iran does display good will, France and France's partners are ready to suspend the procedure in front of the Security Council. The only condition is that there are indeed steps forward,'' Alliot-Marie said.
Mottaki's comments at a news conference appeared aimed at taking advantage of France's position as one of the key nations spearheading efforts to force Iran to roll back its nuclear program.
``The time for language of force is over. The West has tested threats in our region. We invite them to sincerely return to talks,'' he said.
On Friday, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called the U.N. Security Council and its decisions ``illegitimate,'' saying the world body was being used as a political tool by Iran's enemies - the United States and Britain.
1. NKorea has no plans for second nuke test, but no apology for first: China
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North Korea has told China it had no plans for a second nuclear test but did not apologise for its first blast, Chinese officials said, as the UN warned of a critical food shortage in the impoverished nation.
In his first meeting with a foreign official since Pyongyang stunned the world with its atomic bomb test, North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il held talks with Chinese President Hu Jintao's envoy in Pyongyang on Thursday last week.
China's foreign ministry, giving the most expansive briefing yet of the meeting, said Tuesday that Kim had told envoy Tang Jiaxuan that North Korea was not planning a second blast.
However Kim also reportedly warned that further, but unspecified action, might follow if the international community continued to heap pressure on North Korea in reaction to the first blast.
"He (Kim) expressed that North Korea does not have a plan for a second nuclear test," foreign ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao told reporters.
"But if others put further pressure or unfair pressure (on the country), then North Korea may possibly take further measures."
The October 9 blast triggered global outrage and led to sweeping UN Security Council sanctions against North Korea.
Some press reports from South Korea said Kim had expressed some form of regret for his nation's actions, but Liu dismissed the speculation. "I have not heard of Kim Jong-Il apologising," he said.
Liu also said Kim had reiterated his stance that Pyongyang would not return to talks on its nuclear ambitions until the United States lifted financial sanctions imposed last year for alleged money-laundering and counterfeiting.
"They expressed to us their willingness to return to the six-party talks but there are certain conditions," spokesman Liu Jianchao said.
"They are willing to return, but these questions, including financial sanctions, need to be solved."
Returning to the talks -- which have been stalled since North Korea walked out in November last year -- is a key plank of the UN resolution imposed on the nation for conducting its nuclear test.
Japan and Russia, both parties to the six-nation talks, called separately on Tuesday for North Korea to rejoin the diplomatic forum.
"We firmly called on the North Korean side to maintain maximum restraint and return to the negotiating table," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in Saint Petersburg.
Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso rejected North Korea's demand that Washington lift the financial sanctions in return for returning to the talks, which China hosts and also includes the United States and South Korea.
"The US financial sanctions are a totally different thing from the six-party talks," Aso told reporters.
"The US sanctions are based on its domestic laws which have nothing to do with the six-way talks."
All six sides agreed a deal in September last year on ending the North's nuclear program in return for Pyongang receiving economic benefits and security guarantees.
But the deal fell apart when North Korea walked out in protest at the financial sanctions.
Meanwhile, Vitit Muntarbhorn, the UN special rapporteur on human rights in North Korea, warned that the critical food situation in the impoverished country would likely worsen because of the nuclear crisis.
"There is a critical food shortage also compounded by disastrous floods in July and August," Muntarbhorn told a news conference at the United Nations headquarters in New York.
He said the food crisis was further complicated by the North Korean missile tests in July and this month's nuclear blast, both of which he described as "a serious waste" of resources.
"The resources spent on arms would have been better spent satisfying the food security (of North Koreans)," said Muntarbhorn, a Thai law professor.
Chinese spokesman Liu said Tuesday that China, the North's closest ally and by far its biggest aid donor, had no intention of scaling back its humanitarian program to its neighbour.
"Supplying the North Korean people with aid to help them overcome some difficulties has all along been the policy of the Chinese government," Liu said.
"We believe this is beneficial to the stability of the peninsula... at present I have not heard anything about stopping this kind of aid to North Korea."
Also Tuesday, South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-Moon said he would play an active part in finding a peaceful settlement to the nuclear crisis when he takes over as the next UN secretary general in the new year.
Kim Jong-il's mollifying remarks to a visiting Chinese envoy create the misimpression that North Korea has reversed its policy and stepped back from a confrontation over its nuclear-weapons program. Pyongyang's diplomatic outreach will undermine US efforts to secure Chinese, Russian and South Korean agreement to implement United Nations Resolution 1718 forcefully. North Korea may temporarily defer additional escalatory actions to allow its message to take hold, although possible preparations for a second nuclear test have already been observed.
Pyongyang's conflicting messages regarding a second nuclear test over the past few days reflect classic North Korean negotiating tactics to gain leverage over the United States. Kim told Chinese State Councilor Tang Jiaxuan on Friday that North Korea had no plans for conducting additional nuclear tests. Other North Korean officials, however, have threatened a test.
Li Gun, deputy head of the North Korean delegation to the six-party talks on Pyongyang's nuclear program that also involved China, Japan, the US, Russia and South Korea, commented that a second test "shouldn't be a surprise", while North Korean generals told Chinese counterparts that Pyongyang had planned a "series of nuclear events". US, South Korean and Japanese officials announced that satellite imagery revealed activity at three underground facilities similar to that observed prior to the first nuclear test.
Kim is offering to return to the six-party talks, stalled for more than a year, but on conditions that are well known to be unacceptable to the US. He may presume that the nuclear test provided him additional leverage and the US will be forced to acquiesce. Alternatively, he hopes, with Chinese assistance, to make the US appear to be the unreasonable party. Kim's pledge that North Korea was willing to return to the talks was predicated on Pyongyang's long-standing precondition that the US must first remove economic sanctions. As such, it does not reflect a change in the North Korean position nor presage an immediate resumption of nuclear negotiations.
Kim's message is intended to deflect attention and criticism to the US administration's hardline policy. He will thus feel rewarded for his escalatory behavior, increasing the potential for additional steps in the future if he concludes that he has not attained his objectives, especially a removal or dilution of economic sanctions. He may, however, postpone additional provocations and hold a second nuclear test in abeyance to determine the effectiveness of his strategy. The US will not be deterred from its policy of isolating and pressuring North Korea, nor will it lift the sanctions as a precondition to resuming six-party talks. Moreover, US officials have emphasized that even an unconditional North Korean return to the nuclear negotiations would not induce Washington to remove the sanctions, since they are a law-enforcement rather than a diplomatic issue.
Pyongyang's two-track strategy will complicate US attempts to gain Chinese, Russian and South Korean support for abiding by restrictions against North Korea's WMD (weapons of mass destruction) programs contained in Resolution 1718.
North Korea's seeming reasonableness will encourage Beijing and Seoul to resist tough enforcement of the trade sanctions, let alone US demands for additional sanctions beyond those mandated by the UN. The US will be unable to persuade South Korea to engage in any meaningful punishment against the North.
South Korea will reluctantly adopt stronger diplomatic and economic measures. But it will also likely implement only the minimum response necessary to placate the US and satisfy domestic groups. While Seoul will publicly declare that its engagement policy is contingent on Pyongyang returning to nuclear negotiations, the administration of President Roh Moo-hyun will continue to see it as the most viable option to prevent a crisis.
Seoul has rebuffed US requests to cancel the Gaesong development zone and Kumgangsan tourist project and distanced itself from initial pledges to increase involvement in the Proliferation Security Initiative. Domestic approval for South Korea's policy of providing asymmetric benefits to Pyongyang will decline, but that does not mean there will be increased support for US efforts to isolate and pressure North Korea. Any belief that Washington is instigating a military confrontation risks the renewal of anti-American action.
China has taken steps to punish North Korea for its provocative behavior, including reducing bank transactions, restricting border crossings and constructing fences along their common border. But Beijing will continue to resist US efforts to radically increase pressure on North Korea.
The strong but narrowly focused UN resolution against North Korean WMD programs postpones an immediate confrontation with Pyongyang, but does not resolve the nuclear impasse. Although a more tenuous and tense status quo has been established, both the US and North Korea will continue their brinkmanship tactics. North Korea's deteriorating economy will pressure Kim to undertake additional escalatory steps, including a potential second nuclear test. The US would respond by demanding even more punitive follow-on UN resolutions.
Although Resolution 1718 will do little to constrain North Korea's WMD programs, the ban on missile exports eliminates another critical source of revenue for the beleaguered regime. North Korea's nuclear program is predominantly indigenous and has already developed a working, albeit flawed, nuclear weapon. Pyongyang can continually acquire plutonium for additional weapons from its existing Yongbyon reactor. Although North Korean missile sales have declined in recent years, eliminating exports will further challenge Pyongyang's ability to reverse the declining viability of its economy. US-led restrictions against illicit North Korean activities, such as counterfeiting and money-laundering, have already significantly reduced the willingness of foreign banks and companies to engage with Pyongyang on even legitimate business transactions.
North Korea's options are dwindling and its inability to achieve its diplomatic objectives will force it eventually to engage in more high-risk confrontational measures, even as it appeals for negotiations with the US. Kim will be emboldened by perceptions that Washington does not have a military option, because of the proximity of Seoul to the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), the deteriorating Iraqi security situation and the potential face-off with Iran.
The US administration will continue to eschew the six-party talks, seeing its ability to gain approval of the UN resolution as vindicating its policy to isolate and pressure North Korea. Washington assesses that Pyongyang won't risk a confrontation that could lead to regime collapse. In such a situation of an irresistible force meeting an immovable object with neither willing to yield, there is the danger of miscalculating the other side's intentions and responses.
Kim's range of potential escalatory actions include: additional nuclear and missile tests; resumed construction of two larger nuclear reactors to provide additional weapons-grade plutonium; provocative actions along the DMZ or maritime demarcation line; shadowing or intercepting US reconnaissance aircraft; initiating division or corps-level military exercises outside of normal training cycles; and announcing wartime preparations by the military and populace.
Pyongyang may conduct such actions in conjunction with diplomatic entreaties to gain Chinese and South Korean support, including promises to return to the six-party talks, expand bilateral business ventures, and implement new economic reforms. Least likely would be acquiescence to US demands to return to the nuclear negotiations without Washington lifting its current economic restrictions. Pyongyang would prepare the populace for such a policy reversal by first altering its propaganda message to portray the shift as a victory.
South Korea now has a double nuclear umbrella, that is if we count on the "nuclear protection" North Korea insists it is providing for the South these days. Pyongyang's assurance is in addition to the "extended deterrence" that the United States said it was offering Seoul during the latest bilateral security consultative talks. Now with the North adding nuclear rhetoric to their anti-South, anti-U.S. propaganda language, we cannot but feel we are facing greater exposure to a nuclear peril on the Korean Peninsula.
Since early this year, Pyongyang's official media has mentioned in growing frequency what they called the effect of Chairman Kim Jong-il's "military-first policy" and the North's newly acquired nuclear capabilities on the "security of the whole peninsula and the entire Korean nation." An article in a recent issue of Pyongyang's main external publicity magazine said that the North's nuclear arms were "for the common use of the Korean nation as a nuclear umbrella that guarantees the security of the whole Joseon (Korean) people."
The article goes on to argue that the North's nuclear armament was the "best choice" for the eventual denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, and that it was in the "best interests of the Korean nation." No peace can be expected under a U.S. nuclear umbrella, which would only force the South into subservience, it says. Following the North's nuclear test on Oct. 9, other North Korean publications said as their nuclear possession was a fruit of Kim Jong-il's military-first policy, the life and property of the South Korean people are being protected not by any U.S. nuclear umbrella, but by the North's military-first policy.
The argument that Pyongyang's nuclear bombs provide security for both North and South Korea is a new propaganda tactic the North has chosen. It is partly to take advantage of its perceived prestige as a new member of the nuclear club, and chiefly to bring the South closer to its side in the multilateral negotiations to tackle the North Korean nuclear crisis. And one cannot miss its ultimate aim of being an extremely shrewd form of nuclear threat.
As the stalemate goes on in the North Korean nuclear problem, we will have to be prepared for an increase in the volume and intensity of the North's references to their nuclear capabilities, whether in their official media or in the remarks of their representatives in the inter-Korean dialogue. Even before the nuclear test, we remember a North Korean delegate saying the North could turn Seoul into a "sea of fire" in the event of renewed hostilities. Now there will be a lot of nuclear-based propaganda beginning with the rather restrained version of a "nuclear umbrella for the South."
The bully on the block now has a homemade bomb. He says the thing is just to protect him against thugs in the street, but his only possible target is none other than the friend next door, and the consequence of his using the bomb would be the conflagration of the entire neighborhood. At this moment, we just hope that his talk about a nuclear umbrella for the entire peninsula indicates his awareness of the fact that the main consequence of owning nuclear arms is mutual assured destruction, and what it would be like if MAD-ness is allowed to take place in this land.
4. China Gave 'Strong Message' To North Koreans, Rice Says
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China and the United States on Friday appeared to close ranks on North Korea, as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice emerged from a day-long series of meetings here to say that a high-level Chinese government delegation had given North Korea "a strong message" about its nuclear test. China urged North Korea, its longtime beneficiary, to return to six-nation negotiations and appeared ready to implement key measures of the U.N. Security Council resolution punishing the Pyongyang government, Rice said.
Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing and other Chinese officials did not provide details of the meeting on Thursday between a Chinese envoy and North Korean leader Kim Jong Il. But Li pointedly told reporters after meeting with Rice that China will "continue to implement our relevant international obligations and exert our due role in this process."
Rice, briefing reporters traveling with her, said China is considering a range of responses, but said she did not press the government to take any particular steps to force North Korea back to the bargaining table to discuss its nuclear program. "Let's just watch and see what China will do," Rice said, adding that "nobody wants to be on the wrong side of this resolution, in other words, something slipping through."
The U.N. resolution bars trade with North Korea in major weapons, materials that could be used in a nuclear program and luxury goods. China has an 880-mile land border with North Korea, and Rice said the border would be closely monitored.
China has been North Korea's largest trading partner, and has frequently criticized the Bush administration for its refusal to hold bilateral negotiations with North Korea. But officials here were shocked by Pyongyang's refusal to heed its warnings not to conduct a test.
Rice arrived in China after stops in Japan and South Korea to coordinate strategy on implementing the resolution and to reassure Asians that the United States does not want to escalate the conflict. Among the leaders she met with were Chinese President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao.
Rice said it was clear that early reports on U.S. intentions have "conjured up in people's minds the Cuban missile crisis," in which the United States imposed a quarantine on Cuba, and she wanted to allay those fears.
She also emphasized that she had not come to Asia "with my own list of what every country in the world should do." But she predicted that the sanctions may remain in place for some time. "I do believe that you're getting a firm response," she said. "If there isn't some movement, you may get a firmer response as time goes on, but I think this is going to evolve."
On Thursday, China announced that State Councilor Tang Jiaxuan had met with Kim in Pyongyang. When Rice and Tang posed for photographs before their meeting Friday, Tang was overheard telling Rice, "Fortunately, my visit this time has not been in vain." Reporters were then ushered from the room.
The Tang-Kim meeting spurred a rash of news reports in South Korea that Kim had expressed regret for the Oct. 9 test, that North Korea would return to the talks and even that North Korea had declared it would not conduct a second test. Like the Chinese officials, Rice did not disclose details of the meeting, except to say she did not get any indication that Kim expressed regret for testing the weapon.
"There wasn't anything particularly surprising" about Kim's message, Rice said, suggesting the reports that Kim promised a halt in testing were also inaccurate.
Rice aides declined to elaborate on her remarks. In Washington, White House spokesman Tony Snow said that "the North Koreans have not made proffers to return to the six-party talks" and instead said they would return only if the United States ended a crackdown on North Korean money-laundering operations.
The talks have been suspended for nearly a year. North Korea has blamed a U.S. Treasury Department action against a bank in Macau called Banco Delta Asia, which the department had identified as the main conduit for bringing North Korean-made counterfeit U.S. bills into the international system. The Treasury Department had determined that senior officials at the Macau bank accepted large deposits of cash and agreed to place the bogus money into circulation. The bank is also reputed to hold the private accounts of Kim and his family.
In September 2005, four days before North Korea reached an agreement with the United States, China, Russia, Japan and South Korea on a "statement of principles" to guide nuclear negotiations, the Treasury Department formally designated the bank as a "primary money-laundering concern." Banco Delta Asia quickly teetered on the edge of collapse, and banks around the world began to curtail their dealings with North Korea for fear of being similarly tainted. After the impact of the Treasury action became apparent, North Korea refused to return to the six-party talks.
Rice said a recent decision by at least four Chinese banks to stop dealing with North Korea was related to the investigation of Banco Delta Asia. "I will tell you that the reaction to Banco Delta Asia has been quite extraordinary, and it must mean that it's having an effect," she said.
In Washington, meanwhile, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and South Korean Defense Minister Yoon Kwang Ung met Friday and approved a joint communique emphasizing the "continuation of the extended deterrence offered by the U.S. nuclear umbrella" for South Korea. The 2005 communique had spoken only of "continued provision of a nuclear umbrella."
South Korean officials had urged their U.S. counterparts to expand on the "nuclear umbrella" assurance, although the Pentagon resisted the change, U.S. defense officials said. "They wanted to define it further" said a Pentagon spokesman, Maj. David Smith, such as "if the North does this, we'll do that." But he said U.S. policy is not to provide such details, either publicly or privately.
At a Pentagon news conference, Rumsfeld repeatedly said that this year's joint communique would be virtually the same as last year's, until Yoon contradicted him. "I hope that when the joint statement comes out eventually, it'll have different language from years past," Yoon said.
U.S. intelligence officials and weapons proliferation experts say they are concerned that North Korea could add plutonium to the extensive inventory of arms components and technologies it already has sold to such nations as Syria, Pakistan and Libya.
Because of North Korea's track record as an eager exporter of weaponry, some experts are more worried about the government in Pyongyang spreading nuclear technology to other "rogue" nations than about the possibility of it launching a nuclear attack.
"Iran having nuclear weapons is a threat," said David Albright, a former weapons inspector and current president of the Institute for Science and International Security in Washington.
"It's hard to articulate that North Korea having nuclear weapons is a threat to anybody, except by selling it."
That concern prompted a warning from President Bush on Wednesday that Pyongyang would face a "grave consequence" if caught trying to sell plutonium or nuclear weapons to "rogue" nations or terrorist groups.
Albright and other experts, as well as American intelligence officials, said they had not seen evidence that North Korea was attempting to sell the nuclear technology it demonstrated in an underground explosion Oct. 9. Doing so, they said, would be an extreme and dangerous step even for one of the world's most defiant regimes.
But the combination of North Korea's newly demonstrated capability and its long history of selling arms has refocused international attention on the nuclear proliferation threat.
"I don't think you'll find guys saying they've got devices ready to sell off the shelf," said a U.S. intelligence official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the classified nature of the subject. "I think the concern would be about components and raw material."
Tracking North Korea's weapons programs and shipments has been a major priority for U.S. intelligence agencies.
Last year, American intelligence analysts concluded that samples of processed uranium surrendered by Libya probably had come from North Korea. Libya turned over the materials when it agreed in 2003 to abandon its illegal weapons programs.
Pyongyang has a more extensive and established record as an exporter of conventional missile components.
A study by the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies says North Korea had sold "several hundred" mid-range ballistic missiles "as well as materials, equipment, components and production technology" to countries that include Egypt, Iran, Libya, Pakistan, Syria and Yemen. Most of the exported missiles have been variants of the Scud design the Soviets first sold to North Korea in the late 1960s, the study says.
Over a two-decade period, sales of missiles and components have brought in revenue of several hundred million dollars, "a significant portion of North Korea's hard currency earnings," the study says.
North Korea is an impoverished country that relies on China for much of its food, and it depends on the sale of weapons and contraband, allegedly including counterfeit U.S. currency, for much of its revenue.
North Korea is believed to have engaged in barter arrangements by which it has provided missiles to Iran in exchange for oil. Of greater concern has been an apparent deal with Pakistan begun in 1997 by which North Korea provided missile components and technology in return for expertise on developing a uranium enrichment program ï¿½ a means of producing weapons-grade nuclear material that is more difficult to detect than the reprocessing of plutonium.
Numerous North Korean weapons shipments have been intercepted. In 1996, Swiss authorities stopped a consignment of Scud missile components headed to Egypt, prompting Cairo to promise to curtail its purchases from North Korea.
Given North Korea's record, its nuclear test has triggered fears that it may next seek to export such weapons technology as well.
As recently as several years ago, American intelligence agencies concluded that North Korea probably had enough plutonium for two or three bombs. But in December 2002, North Korea expelled international inspectors, soon thereafter withdrew from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and subsequently declared that it was resuming the reprocessing of more than 8,000 spent fuel rods.
"They have certainly produced enough plutonium since that time to make a number of more weapons," said a U.S. defense official familiar with the intelligence on North Korea.
It is unclear whether Pyongyang plans further nuclear tests. American spy satellites and other surveillance have detected suspicious activity at other underground facilities, possibly indicating preparations for another test, U.S. intelligence officials said. However, South Korean and Japanese media reported Friday that North Korean leader Kim Jong Il had told a Chinese envoy that Pyongyang would not conduct another test.
Experts said that further tests would suggest that North Korea has an ample supply of plutonium, enough to make additional bombs and raise concerns about proliferation.
Recent sanctions imposed by the United Nations bar North Korea from spreading nuclear material or technology. And most experts said the country would probably refrain from doing so. "It's still a low-probability worry," said Michael Levi, a nuclear weapons expert at the Council on Foreign Relations, "but it's the high consequences that make people concerned."
6. Carter says Bush partly to blame for N.Korea test
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Former President Jimmy Carter said on Friday the Bush administration was partly responsible for North Korea's decision to test a nuclear device by isolating the Asian country, and he urged Washington to change course and talk with Pyongyang.
"Obviously most of the blame is on North Korea but it is U.S. policies that have brought us to this status," he told Reuters while riding between campaign stops for his son Jack who is running for the U.S. Senate in Nevada.
Carter, president from 1977 to 1981, negotiated a deal during a visit to North Korea in 1994 over the reclusive communist state's nuclear program when fellow Democrat Bill Clinton was president.
"The Bush administration changed that policy," he continued. "They put in the trash can the agreement with North Korea, and as a result of that -- and threatened North Korea with military attack -- and as a result of those threats and the discarding of the previous agreement, North Korea announced that they were withdrawing from the Non-Proliferation Treaty."
"It's like night and day. It was daytime when Clinton was in office that totally prohibited and prevented any sort of plutonium enrichment," he said. "All that was dramatically changed under George Bush and now we have the North Koreans having exploded a plutonium bomb."
Carter said he favored resuming talks with North Korea.
"Unfortunately, the U.S. government has established an unprecedented international policy of not talking to anyone who disagrees with us," he said.
Bush has rejected Democratic criticism of his North Korean policy and said direct talks with North Korea failed in the past, citing the North's violation of its 1994 agreement with the Clinton administration. Bush has pursued six-party talks in which the United States, China, South Korea, Japan and Russia deal jointly with North Korea.
1. No reason to treat N. Korea as nuclear power-FM Lavrov
(for personal use only)
The Russian foreign minister said Saturday it is inadvisable to recognize North Korea as a nuclear power.
The UN Security Council on October 14 passed a resolution on North Korea following its underground nuclear test explosion, condemning the test and imposing arms and financial sanctions. Pyongyang said the resolution was tantamount to a declaration of war.
"We do not agree with this. We will do everything in our power to stop such dangerous trends," Sergei Lavrov told Kuwait News Agency (KUNA) after being asked whether North Korea should be recognized as a nuclear power and treated accordingly.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said Wednesday it hopes North Korea will move to alleviate the international community's concerns over its nuclear ambitions.
The Security Council resolution, which called the test a "clear threat to international peace and security," allows for the inspection of cargo to or from North Korea that may contain weapons of mass destruction or elements of such weapons, and calls on all countries to freeze the North's funds connected to its non-conventional arms program.
The sanctions will be lifted as soon as Pyongyang agrees to give up its nuclear program and returns to the six-nation talks with South Korea, Russia, Japan, China and the United States.
The Foreign Ministry also said that all six nations must make sure the resolution is implemented, echoing U.S. concerns over South Korea and China's reluctance to clamp down on the difficult neighbor.
"This is the only way to find mutually acceptable solutions and ensure the nuclear non-proliferation regime by denuclearizing the Korean peninsula, while taking into account North Korea's justified concerns," the ministry said.
On Tuesday, the chief of the General Staff of Russia's Armed Forces said he does not rule out that Pyongyang could conduct a second nuclear test.
1. N. Korea, Mideast states, refuse chemical arms ban
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North Korea, Egypt, Israel, Lebanon and Syria have refused to join a treaty banning chemical weapons, thereby posing a danger to 180 nations that have pledged to destroy stockpiles, the head of a monitoring group said on Friday.
Argentine Rogelio Pfirter, director-general of the group that implements the treaty, told a news conference and the U.N. General Assembly that all countries should be obliged to join the Chemical Weapons Convention, which came into force in April 1997.
"It is very unfair to other countries if a few countries retain for themselves the privilege of producing chemical weapons when all the others are transparent in this field," said Pfirter, head of the Hague-based Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.
Even one country refusing to join was a "major loophole" in getting rid of such arms, which include the deadly nerve gas VX and mustard gases, he said.
As for North Korea, Pfirter said, Pyongyang has not replied to entreaties to join the convention, despite "allegations of the potential existence of stockpiles."
A Security Council resolution on October 14 on North Korea's nuclear test demanded the nation rid itself of all weapons of mass destruction.
In the Middle East, Egypt, Israel, Lebanon and Syria "in one way or another" contended they could not sign the treaty because of a regional conflict, an excuse Pfirter rejected because so many other countries in war zones have signed.
Of those nations that have declared chemical weapons stockpiles, Russia has the most with more than 40,000 metric tons, followed by the United States with 27,000 metric tons. Other declared holders are India, Libya and Albania.
The treaty bans the use of chemical weapons as well as their development, production, stockpiling and transfer. It says that all stockpiles must destroyed by April 2007 but allows an extension and both the United States and Russia are seeking another five years.
Last April, U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told congressional defense committee leaders that the United States could destroy only an estimated 66 percent of its declared chemical weapons stockpile by the 2007 deadline.
Pfirter, whose group provides inspectors, said operations have been completed at two U.S. facilities while six others are still operating.
U.S. officials estimate a cost of more than $32 billion to destroy the entire stockpile because special plants have to be built to do the job safely.
While the full ramifications of North Korea's nuclear tests remain unclear, one thing is certain: The international community has failed to prevent countries from developing nuclear weapons, and we must act now to prevent a world of multiplying nuclear-armed countries and terrorists.
For too long, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty has been exploited. States are allowed to walk up to the threshold of a nuclear bomb legally and openly. If a state agrees to forswear nuclear weapons, the treaty has been wrongly interpreted to say it may acquire nuclear technology and fuel, including enrichment facilities.
From there, all it takes is a country's decision to leave the treaty and, with minimal knowhow, become a nuclear weapons state complete with a steady supply of bomb-grade uranium and plutonium. This is how North Korea got the bomb, and it's how Iran is seeking to do so as well.
We need a new international non-proliferation standard that prevents countries from using the guise of nuclear energy to develop nuclear weapons.
The dangers are so great that the world community must declare that there is no right under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to enrich uranium or separate plutonium from spent nuclear fuel. No new country should be able to pursue uranium enrichment or plutonium separation, even if claiming to do so for civil nuclear energy purposes.
Unfortunately, this change appears to be too late to prevent a nuclear North Korea. But the opportunity remains to stop countries such as Iran that may take a similar tack.
Unless the international community, led by the U.S., takes this important step, the coming surge in demand for nuclear power will lead more and more nations to seek their own enrichment facilities. Making the case for this change will be difficult, but it is necessary given the continued failures of the current approach.
Some countries will complain that in opposing new enrichment and reprocessing facilities, the U.S. is breaking the basic bargain of the treaty, which offers assistance on peaceful nuclear programs to countries that agree not to build nuclear bombs. Instead, for countries that renounce their own enrichment and reprocessing capabilities, we would offer guaranteed access to nuclear reactor fuel at reasonable prices, consistent with the treaty's true intent.
To assure steady nuclear reactor fuel supplies and services, we propose the establishment of an International Nuclear Fuel Bank, controlled by the International Atomic Energy Agency. Countries would be able to draw fuel for their power plants, provided they agree to strict verification and inspections, and then return the spent fuel for safe oversight by the agency. This proposal will ensure access to nuclear energy for peaceful purposes and prevent weapons proliferation, consistent with the treaty's true intent.
Equally important, the creation of the fuel bank cuts short the debate over nuclear technology rights. It will draw a clear line in the sand: Countries that refuse fuel bank services will come under immediate suspicion about their weapons intentions.
Think tanks and private groups, including the Nuclear Threat Initiative, have supported this idea. In fact, President Bush announced a similar initiative two years ago, but the issue has been given little attention. The challenges to achieving this goal are daunting, but so are the dangers if we fail to do so. It is time to try a new approach to stop the spread of nuclear weapons, before the North Korean test is echoed by Iran.
Chief cabinet coordinator Dilma Rouseff said the long term plan to construct nuclear plants is geared to achieve ï¿½economic efficiencyï¿½ and will represent a doubling of Brazilï¿½s current nuclear energy contribution to the national grid from 2.5 to 5.6%.
The plan is currently in Brazilï¿½s executive and will begin to be addressed once the presidential run off is over next October 29.
Odair Dias Gonalves head of Brazilï¿½s National Committee on Nuclear Energy was more precise as to the number of nuclear plants planned: ï¿½seven reactors by 2025ï¿½.
Brazil has two nuclear plants, Angra 1 and Angra 2, and the blueprints for Angra 3 which could be finished by 2010.
Edson Kuramoto, president of the Brazilian Nuclear Energy Association said that the construction of Angra 3 by 2010 should held Brazil have its own uranium enrichment plant.
Currently the enriched uranium consumed by Brazilian nuclear plants is supplied by Holland.
In an era of perpetually rising fuel costs, the search for alternative energy sources has surged. Scientists and engineers worldwide scramble to devise practical and affordable new ways of powering our homes, cars and businesses as global fossil fuel reserves slowly diminish.
One clear and very affordable solution, according to the scientists who are developing it, is nuclear power. "If you compare energy sources in terms of cost effectiveness, there is absolutely nothing to compare. Nuclear energy is by far superior," states Professor Alex Galperin, Chair of Israel's Ben Gurion University of the Negev's nuclear engineering department.
Created by the energy released during fission or splitting of nuclei atoms within heavy elements such as uranium or during fusion of light nuclei atoms such as hydrogen, nuclear power or fission was indepedently discovered in the 1930s by scientists Otto Hahn and Fritz Strassmann of Germany and Irene and Frederic Joliot-Curie of France.
Today, the controlled use of nuclear reactions for energy is spreading. France is the world leader in nuclear consumption, deriving 80% of the country's energy from sixty nuclear reactors. Japan and the US, also nuclear production intensive, lead the world in terms of energy output. Stigmas surrounding nuclear development, however, might be putting brakes on more widespread nuclear energy use.
"One of the major problems with nuclear energy is that people are scared of it," Galperin's colleague Dr. Eugene Shwageraus tells ISRAEL21c. "People identify nuclear with nuclear weapons. How real that is is a debatable matter of speculation and public perception."
Public perception took a hit after the Three Mile Island, Pennsylvania and 80's Chernobyl, Russia accidents in the 1970's. "Chernobyl sent us many steps backwards. Exaggerated concerns with safety cropped up and the entire nuclear business was shrouded in uncertainty," Shwageraus explains. As a result, nuclear development costs soared, projects shut down and companies went bankrupt.
To ease the stigma, Shwageraus and a handful of fellow leading Israeli nuclear engineers are working to advance widespread nuclear acceptance and use.
"The very real major challenges we nuclear scientists face are waste management, sustainability, economics, safety and proliferation," Shwageraus elaborates. On a personal level, he is tackling those challenges by investing himself in research aimed at averting proliferation, tackling waste management and addressing safety issues.
Specifically, Shwageraus is participating in the Thorium Project: the development of a Thorium/Uranium combination for nuclear energy production initiated by pioneer nuclear scientist and former leading BGU nuclear reactor analyst Dr. Alvin Radkowsky in the 1950s. Based upon the premise of creating nuclear fuels that sever the link between nuclear weapons and nuclear power, Thorium energy produces less plutonium than conventional reactor fuel rendering it useless in weapons production.
Radkowsky died in 2002 but his legacy is sustained via continued research in the field.
"We're a very small group of nuclear scientists at Ben Gurion University but our scientific research is in the top-tier level. We participate in numerous international projects including our current collaboration with the US Department of Energy's International Forum on enhanced proliferation resistance, a multi-million dollar project. It's a forum of international experts looking at problems and concepts for new reactors and presenting ideas in a complete and comprehensive way," Shwageraus explains.
One of those ways is exploring cost effectiveness of nuclear energy. Although building power plants is highly cost intensive, uranium derived energy is insignificant in terms of end-user cost. If, say, gas prices double, costs at a gas-fired power plant soar resulting in an 80% increase to consumers. Even if uranium costs double, on the other hand, prices won't be reflected on energy bills.
Another project Shwageraus and colleagues are heading is research into gas cooled reactors. Markedly more efficient than conventional water cooled reactors, gas cooled reactors self-cool in the case of an accident, precluding human intervention. Gas cooled reactors are presumably safer than their water counterparts and can convert a larger proportion of fission-created heat to produce ultra-clean hydrogen fuel without using carbon dioxide.
"In South Africa right now the government is building a gas cooled reactor. The concept is very promising and the whole world is watching South Africa to see how it will go," Shwageraus relays.
Additional research within BGU's nuclear engineering department includes projects aimed at tackling nuclear waste, a tremendous issue when foraying into the nuclear energy realm. The elements used in nuclear energy production are highly unstable and extremely radioactive with half-lives of thousands of years.
One solution to waste reduction is recycling actinides, the chemically similar, radioactive compounds that build up during energy production. The problem, however, is building a safe reactor core that can handle being loaded with long-life, highly radioactive actinides. While Israel isn't officially involved in programs to recycle actinides, there is a sense that Israel's scientific minds have an active input into the framework being developed for the world via the Bush administration's Global Nuclear Energy Partnership Initiative (GNEP).
GNEP members include developed nations and Russia but Israel is officially excluded for not ratifying the 1968 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). The treaty, signed by 188 sovereign states, stands for non-proliferation, disarmament and the right to peaceful use of nuclear technology.
According to Israel Atomic Energy Commission spokesperson Nili Lifshitz, while "Israel joined the consensus in the UN in 1968 regarding the NPT and it supports the non-proliferation regime... it believes that the Treaty is not appropriate for the Middle East, as many cases of non-compliance in our region have proven."
This is probably of little reassurance, however, to Israel's nuclear scientists attempting to develop workable energy solutions alongside global piers. Exclusion from nuclear energy conferences and blocked access to vital computer codes are common.
However, that isn't stopping Israel from participating as a major player and contributor to the developing energy scene.
"The most outstanding contribution from here is non-proliferation fuel - the Thorium Project," Shwageraus concludes. "The political possibility for proliferation is always there. But it's not a real engineering or scientific problem. A reactor can be a tool for getting a weapon if misused but scientific solutions are in place to make it impossible or improbable. Bottom line is to get a bomb you have to have plutonium. And with the new technologies in place, you can't get pure plutonium anymore even if you want to."
Building work, costing ï¿½1bn, at a weapons research base and the creation of hundreds of new jobs have sparked claims of new nuclear developments.
Jobs have been created to work with new computer technology at the site.
Greenpeace said the international Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty is being contravened at the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) in Aldermaston.
But a Ministry of Defence spokesman said Trident nuclear missiles are not being replaced at the Berkshire base.
Greenpeace's claims centre on a video clip of Aldermaston's chief scientist Dr Clive Marsh, which the organisation said is aimed at potential AWE employees on Aldermaston's website.
'New nuclear weapons'
In the clip Dr Marsh said they aim to "develop our overall warhead design and assurance capabilities, including the ability to provide a new warhead lest our government should ever need it as a successor to Trident".
Blake Lee Harwood, Greenpeace campaign director, said: "The government is pretending to consult but they've already given the nod to a new nuclear weapons system costing billions of pounds."
Greenpeace claims that by developing new nuclear weaponary Article 6 of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty is being broken.
This says: "Each of the Parties to the Treaty undertakes to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control."
The AWE at Aldermaston is the headquarters of Britain's nuclear development programme.
A spokesman said the MoD needed new scientists for computer modelling, laser physics and hydro modelling, with the last big recruitment being 30-40 years ago and current staff reaching retirement.
He said: "No decision has been taken to replace the Trident system. Trident will last until the 2020s."
The MoD plans to carry out computer-simulated testing in the new facilities.
"We have to keep warheads safe and reliable. Facilities are 20 to 30 years old," the spokesman added.
The new Orion laser computer-simulation facility is being built to replace the out-dated Helen facility.
Opposition to the building work had already been voiced in July, when anti-nuclear protesters attempted to disrupt development at Aldermaston.
The United States took another step yesterday toward building a new stockpile of up to 2,200 deployed nuclear weapons that would last well into the 21st century, announcing the start of a multiyear process to repair and replace facilities where they would be developed and assembled and where older warheads could be more rapidly dismantled.
Thomas P. D'Agostino, head of defense programs for the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), told reporters that the "Complex 2030" program would repair or replace "inefficient, old and expensive [to maintain]" facilities at eight sites, including some buildings going back to the 1940s Manhattan Project that built the first atomic bombs. He said the sites -- primarily in California, New Mexico, Texas and Tennessee -- "are not sustainable for the long term."
Yesterday's announcement comes as the Bush administration is pressing its allies to take harsh steps to halt nuclear weapons programs in both North Korea and Iran that it says are violations of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. That same treaty calls for the United States and other members of the nuclear club to eliminate their own stockpiles, but it gives no deadline by which that should take place.
The Bush administration plan would replace the aging Cold War stockpile of about 6,000 warheads with a smaller, more reliable arsenal that would last for decades. It would also consolidate the handling of plutonium, the most dangerous of the nuclear materials, in one center that would be built at a site that already houses similar special materials. Another part of the plan would be to remove all highly enriched uranium from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, D'Agostino said.
Key to the Bush plan is an expected decision in December by the NNSA on a design for the new "Reliable Replacement Warhead" (RRW). The nation's two nuclear weapons laboratories, Los Alamos and Lawrence Livermore, are competing for the new warhead design. Before going ahead with any new warhead, however, the NNSA would have to get Congress's approval to move into actual engineering development.
A requirement of the new design is that it must be based on nuclear packages tested in the past so that it will not require the United States to break the moratorium on underground tests to make certain the RRW will work.
The process initiated yesterday will provide the public the first chance to give its views on the Bush nuclear program. To carry out the rebuilding of the complex, the agency must prepare updated environmental-impact statements for the eight sites, including public comments, and hold hearings at each location.
Although the administration has decided to go ahead with the Complex 2030 plan and sees the RRW as a way to have a more reliable weapon, the public will also get a chance to comment on two alternative plans for handling the nuclear stockpile -- plans that the administration has rejected.
The Bush option, titled "Transform to a More Modern, Cost-Effective Nuclear Weapons Complex (Complex 2030)," would call for stepped-up dismantling of older warheads, a process that has been slowed by the aging of some facilities and by efforts to refurbish other deployed warheads.
The second option to be placed before the public is called the "No Action Alternative," which is described as "the status quo as it exists today and is presently planned," according to yesterday's notice in the Federal Register about the upcoming environmental-impact hearings. That approach would keep the current programs going and defer decisions on the future of the nuclear stockpile.
The third option, titled "Reduced Operations and Capability-Based Complex Alternative," could draw support from arms control and anti-nuclear activists.
Under this approach, the NNSA would keep its current technologies for manufacturing weapons and its production facilities would not be upgraded. The production of plutonium triggers for current weapons, called pits, would remain limited at about 50 per year. Under the Bush plan, the new plutonium center could produce 125 pits a year, a number D'Agostino said would satisfy current planning for the 2,200 RRW stockpile of the future.
The Indian-American nuclear deal signed in New Delhi in March seems to be foundering. The pact, which would give India access to American civil nuclear technology, must be approved by the U.S. Congress before it can become law.
Although the accord -- signed by Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and U.S. President George W. Bush -- was opposed by many people, including some political parties and experts in India, two months ago it seemed set to sail smoothly through Congress.
The hitch in the deal was India's ongoing nuclear-weapons program and New Delhi's refusal to sign the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). Advocates of a world free of nuclear weapons question whether such a country should enjoy the benefits of America's civil nuclear technology.
Washington's pact with New Delhi has inherent contradictions: Here is a nation that went to war with Iraq on a vague suspicion that Saddam Hussein had stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction. Here is also a nation that has been trying to stop, with threats, North Korea and Iran from going nuclear.
Admittedly, India is a responsible democracy that cannot be placed in the same political category as North Korea, Iraq, Iran and even Pakistan. This is Bush's belief and he used this argument to try to push the Indian-American nuclear agreement through Congress.
But North Korea's recent nuclear test may derail or delay the Indian-American nuclear deal. The North Korean test will certainly bring into sharp focus the deterrence theory, and the looming possibility of further nuclear proliferation.
There are fears that Japan, South Korea and even Taiwan may be tempted to join the nuclear club. And if Iran builds a nuclear bomb, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Syria and Turkey may follow suit. After all, Pakistan went nuclear immediately after India exploded its own nuclear bomb.
Eager to see its pact with Washington pass through the U.S. Congress, New Delhi is now attempting to project itself as a responsible entity. One way of doing so is by turning the spotlight on Pakistan and its reported role in helping North Korea develop nuclear weapons. After talks with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Singh recently said, "I wish to state the . . . erosion of the nonproliferation regime is not in our interests, we do not support the emergence of another nuclear-weapons state. The North Korea test highlights the danger of clandestine proliferation. In fact, India's own security has suffered due to clandestine proliferation linkages."
Yet, a marked nervousness can be felt in India's corridors of power about the nation being clumped together with countries such as Pakistan, North Korea and Iran. An Indian Foreign Ministry spokesperson in New Delhi said the other day that "We have to stress the fact that there is a distinction between India and the rest -- Pakistan, North Korea and Iran."
The world knows this distinction, but the North Korean test can make a lot of people -- even those sympathetic to India's cause -- uneasy.
The timing of the North Korean blast was particularly bad for India. It suffered a major setback recently when the U.S. Senate recessed without voting on a bill that would have given Bush the powers to enable the pact to be implemented.
This law would recognize India as a nuclear-weapons state and permit civilian nuclear commerce with it, even though New Delhi has not signed the NPT and has become a nuclear-weapons state in violation of NPT principles.
"All this is bad news for the deal," said M. V. Ramana, an independent nuclear-affairs expert based at the Center for Interdisciplinary Studies in Environment and Development in Bangalore. "But it's not terrible news. There is still a good chance that the Senate resolution will eventually go through. But there is now a higher probability that more and more conditions will be imposed that will limit the degree of cooperation permitted under the deal or demand special assurances from India, which are not reciprocally sought from the U.S."
If the pact cannot be approved by the present Congress, it will have to go through a trying process before it can be taken up by the new Congress that convenes in January 2007.
It is then quite likely that the accord will differ significantly from the one that Singh and Bush signed early this year.
The possible demise of U.S-India nuclear deal has galvanized the Bush administration into declaring a major upgrade of broader strategic ties with New Delhi.
A high-level U.S delegation led by Under Secretary of State Nicholas Burns will visit India in November to "move forward the strategic relationship in an ambitious way," the administration announced on Friday.
Although a top U.S official insisted that the civilian nuclear deal remains the "top concern and top objective" of the administration and they are hopeful of the Senate taking up the matter in the lame-duck session, it appears Washington is laying the ground for a possible failure to push the agreement through this Congress with some big ticket announcements.
"We want to begin efforts...to put our best foot forward to fulfill the vision of the strategic relationship with India," Burns said at a briefing for only the Washington-based Indian press corps.
He declined to give the precise dates of the visit to India or the composition of the delegation, but since the lame-duck session is scheduled for November 9 (after the November 7 election), it appears the visit will take place later in the month, mainly as a palliative to address the disappointment that will follow the possible demise of the deal.
Burns though said he preferred have a positive outlook and insisted that the administration remained committed to the deal. But he did not go beyond hoping the Senate would take up the matter and vote positively, saying scheduling the vote was the prerogative of the Senate and the administration was still in talks with key lawmakers on the matter.
"The nuclear deal remains the symbolic center of the strategic relationship," he said.
But Hill sources told ToI that there was only a slim chance the Congress would take up the legislation, particularly if the Democrats win a majority in one or both chambers. The lame-duck session in that case would be abbreviated to a week or less and only urgent appropriation matters would be taken up.
So mortified is the administration at the prospect of the deal failing to pass Congress that it is even willing to gloss over New Delhiï¿½s probable vote for Venezuela (against the U.S-backed Guatemala) in a bitterly contested election for the U.N Security Council.
Asked if Indiaï¿½s dalliance with Cuba and Venezuela and its refusal to toe the U.S line irked Washington, Burns said as sovereign nations, the U.S and India were each entitled to their views and such issues could not be a litmus test for the relationship.
"We have an excellent relationship with India...India has its own foreign policy. I donï¿½t want to anticipate how India voted in a secret ballot," Burns said, amid indications that New Delhi had politely declined U.S request to support Guatemala.
The Burns delegation to India will also consist of senior counter terrorism officials with the aim of upgrading cooperation in the field. Burns said the U.S wanted to augment cooperation in counterterrorism "because we owe it to India... which had unfortunately and tragically become a victim of terrorism."
The first stop on Condoleezza Rice's post-detonation, nuclear reassurance tour was Tokyo. There she dutifully unfurled the American nuclear umbrella, pledging in person that the United States would meet any North Korean attack on Japan with massive American retaliation, nuclear if necessary.
An important message, to be sure, for the short run, lest Kim Jong Il imbibe a little too much cognac and be teased by one of his "pleasure squad" lovelies into launching a missile or two into Japan.
But Rice's declaration had another and obvious longer-run intent: to quell any thought Japan might have of going nuclear to counter and deter North Korea's bomb.
The Japanese understood this purpose well. Thus, at a joint news conference with Rice, Foreign Minister Taro Aso offered the boilerplate denial of even thinking of going nuclear: "The government of Japan has no position at all to consider going nuclear."
The impeccably polite Japanese were not about to contradict the secretary of state in her presence. Nonetheless, the very same Aso had earlier the very same day told a parliamentary committee that Japan should begin debating the issue: "The reality is that it is only Japan that has not discussed possessing nuclear weapons, and all other countries have been discussing it."
Just three days earlier, another high-ranking member of the ruling party had transgressed the same taboo and called for open debate about Japan's acquiring nuclear weapons.
The American reaction to such talk is knee-jerk opposition. Like those imperial Japanese soldiers discovered holed up on some godforsaken Pacific island decades after World War II, we continue to act as if we, too, never received news of the Japanese surrender. We applaud the Japanese for continuing their adherence to the MacArthur constitution that forever denies Japan the status of Great Power replete with commensurate military force.
Of course Japan has in recent decades skirted that proscription, building a small but serious conventional military. Nuclear weapons, however, have remained off the table.
As the only country ever to suffer nuclear attack, Japan obviously has its own reasons to resist the very thought. But now that the lunatic regime next door, which has already overflown Japan with its missiles, has officially gone nuclear, some rethinking is warranted.
Japan is a true anomaly. All the other Great Powers went nuclear decades ago -- even the once-and-no-longer great, such as France; the wannabe great, such as India; and the never-will-be great, such as North Korea. There are nukes in the hands of Pakistan, which overnight could turn into an al-Qaeda state, and North Korea, a country so cosmically deranged that it reports that the "Dear Leader" shot five holes-in-one in his first time playing golf and also wrote six operas. Yet we are plagued by doubts about Japan's joining this club.
Japan is not just a model international citizen -- dynamic economy, stable democracy, self-effacing foreign policy -- it is also the most important and reliable U.S. ally after only Britain. One of the quieter success stories of recent American foreign policy has been the intensification of the U.S.-Japanese alliance. Tokyo has joined with the United States in the development and deployment of missile defenses and aligned itself with the United States on the neuralgic issue of Taiwan, pledging solidarity should there ever be a confrontation.
The immediate effect of Japan's considering going nuclear would be to concentrate China's mind on denuclearizing North Korea. China calculates that North Korea is a convenient buffer between it and a dynamic, capitalist South Korea bolstered by American troops. China is quite content with a client regime that is a thorn in our side, keeping us tied down while it pursues its ambitions in the rest of Asia. Pyongyang's nukes, after all, are pointed not west but east.
Japan's threatening to go nuclear would alter that calculation. It might even persuade China to squeeze Kim Jong Il as a way to prevent Japan from going nuclear. The Japan card remains the only one that carries even the remote possibility of reversing North Korea's nuclear program.
Japan's response to the North Korean threat has been very strong and very insistent on serious sanctions. This is, of course, out of self-interest, not altruism. But that is the point. Japan's natural interests parallel America's in the Pacific Rim -- maintaining military and political stability, peacefully containing an inexorably expanding China, opposing the gangster regime in Pyongyang, and spreading the liberal democratic model throughout Asia.
Why are we so intent on denying this stable, reliable, democratic ally the means to help us shoulder the burden in a world where so many other allies -- the inveterately appeasing South Koreans most notoriously -- insist on the free ride?
1. NNSA Releases Notice of Intent for the Complex 2030 Environmental Impact Statement
National Nuclear Security Administration
(for personal use only)
The Department of Energyï¿½s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) today announced its plans to prepare an environmental impact statement (EIS) for the transformation and modernization of the Cold War-era nuclear weapons complex.
NNSA issued in the Federal Register a Notice of Intent (NOI) to prepare an EIS, which will be entitled the ï¿½Complex 2030 Supplement to the Stockpile Stewardship and Management Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement.ï¿½ The NOI outlines the alternatives that the NNSA will consider in transforming the nuclear weapons complex to better meet future national security requirements.
Earlier in the year, NNSA outlined its comprehensive plan, called Complex 2030, for a smaller, more efficient nuclear weapons complex that is better able and more suited to respond to future national security challenges. Complex 2030ï¿½s goal is to achieve President Bushï¿½s vision of the smallest stockpile consistent with our national security needs.
By 2012, the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile will be reduced by nearly 50 percent making it the smallest stockpile since the Eisenhower administration.
Complex 2030 refers to the configuration of the nuclear weapons complex that NNSA envisions by the year 2030. It includes significant dismantling of retired warheads, consolidating special nuclear materials, eliminating duplicative capabilities, establishing a consolidated plutonium center, and implementing more efficient and uniform business practices throughout the complex.
In order to further define the EIS and identify key issues, NNSA is requesting comments from the public. The public comment period begins today and will continue through January 18, 2007. Public comments will be accepted in writing or at one of the 17 meetings that NNSA will be hosting in the local communities surrounding each site in the nuclear weapons complex and in Washington, D.C. The NOI includes additional public comment information and a complete list of the meetings including dates, times and locations.
After the comment period and public meetings, NNSA will prepare a draft of the EIS. This draft will be made public in the summer of 2007 and NNSA will hold hearings to solicit the publicï¿½s comments. In the spring of 2008, NNSA will publish the final EIS and a record of decision will be reached in the fall of 2008.
The nuclear weapons complex consists of the eight major facilities across the country that work together to keep the nationï¿½s nuclear stockpile safe and reliable without underground nuclear testing. The facilities include: Los Alamos National Laboratory (NM), Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (CA), Sandia National Laboratories (NM and CA), Pantex Plant (TX), Y-12 National Security Complex (TN), Kansas City Plant (MO), Savannah River Site (SC) and Nevada Test Site (NV).
DISCLAIMER: Nuclear News is presented for informational purposes only. Readers are encouraged to visit the websites from which the source material originates. Views presented in any given article are those of the individual author or source and not of RANSAC. RANSAC takes no responsibility for the accuracy of information contained in any article presented in Nuclear News.