A flurry of missile launches after North Korea's nuclear test last week was more than an elaborate fireworks show _ it prevented foreign monitors from assessing the force and success of the isolated communist nation's second atomic blast.
Daniel Pinkston, a Seoul-based analyst for the International Crisis Group, said that without knowing exactly how strong a bomb the North detonated May 25, it was impossible to say whether it could be considered a success. He was the yield was likely in the 2.5- to 8-kiloton range.
"It very well could be that they are pretty much where they want to be," Pinkston said. "They are probably trying to make a small warhead."
But efforts to assess the test were slowed by the North's rapid-fire launches of six ground-to-ship or ground-to-air missiles in the days that followed, and more launches were expected.
"It seems radioactivity-level measurements have not been that good because the North kept firing missiles," said Cha Du-hyeon, chief of the North Korean military research division at the Korea Institute for Defense Analyses.
South Korean media reported Monday that North Korea had transported its most advanced long-range missile to a launch site on its western coast near China and that it could be ready for launch in a week or two.
It was also preparing to launch several medium-range missiles, possibly modified versions of its Rodong series, from a base in the east, Yonhap news agency said Tuesday.
After North Korea's first nuclear test in 2006 it did not follow up with missile launches, but its missile activity this time has made monitors nervous, Cha said.
"Countries appear to be cautious about sending ships and aircraft to areas close to the North," he said.
The missile tests slowed efforts by South Korea, U.S. and Japanese airplanes to conduct monitoring flights aimed at detecting radiation levels that could be used to assess the strength of the test.
Japan's Defense Ministry said it has sent several T-4 fighters on surveillance missions to monitor radiation levels. The United States has RC-135s and other reconnaissance planes based on the southern Japanese island of Okinawa and more in South Korea that could be used for spying on North Korea.
"The firing of anti-aircraft and anti-ship missiles were to deter U.S. and Japanese ships and aircraft from coming close to collect evidence of the nuclear test, while at the same time threatening the South," said Kim Sung-man, a defense expert who served as a top navy official until 2005.
The intelligence gathered has not been made public.
North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency said Monday that the number of foreign spy planes operating in its airspace had risen dramatically in May.
With information still spotty, estimates of the yield of last Monday's nuclear device vary widely.
One of the first estimates of its size came from the Russian defense ministry, which put the yield at between 10 and 20 kilotons _ comparable to the U.S. bombs that flattened Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan in August 1945.
But a senior U.S. administration official, speaking last week on condition of anonymity, said it appeared the explosive yield was much smaller, perhaps a few kilotons. The official said more technical analysis would be needed to give a more accurate reading.
In Japan, seismic experts used instruments for measuring earthquakes to estimate the power of the blast.
Gen Aoki, a quake expert and official at the Japan Meteorological Agency, said North Korea's latest nuclear test measured magnitude-5.3. The Japanese agency measured the North's 2006 nuclear test at magnitutde-4.9.
"The seismic activity of last month's nuclear test showed quake energy was four times more powerful than the previous test in 2006."
U.S. and French officials have said the 2006 test measured less than a kiloton; 1 kiloton is equal to the force produced by 1,000 tons of TNT.
Analyst Cha said it is also difficult to determine the yield of the blast because there are many factors affecting it _ including what kind of a detonator was used and how tightly the underground site was sealed.
"But what is clear is that they are making progress," he said.
Available at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/06/02/AR2009060201948_pf.html
North Korea is preparing to launch three or four medium-range missiles, along with an ICBM, amid moves by Kim Jong Il to anoint his third son as heir to the world's first communist dynasty, reports and experts said Tuesday.
South Korea's Yonhap news agency said the North is preparing to fire three to four medium-range missiles from Anbyon on its east coast.
"Many vehicles mounted with mobile launchers are being spotted" at Anbyon, Yonhap quoted an unnamed government official saying. "It looks like at least three missiles will be launched." The North has also transported what is believed to be its most advanced intercontinental ballistic missile to a base near China in the west, officials confirmed.
Yonhap did not say when the medium-range missiles, possibly a version of the Rodong series, might be launched.
The reclusive communist country was showing other signs of belligerence. Reports say that over the past several days the North has strengthened its defenses and conducted amphibious assault exercises along its western shore that could be preparations for skirmishes at sea.
South Korea has deployed a guided-missile high-speed boat to the area to "frustrate North Korea's naval provocation intentions and destroy the enemy at the scene in case of provocations," the navy said in a statement.
The ship has guided missiles that can strike enemy vessels 87 miles (140 kilometers) away, a 76mm gun and a 40mm cannon as well as a sophisticated radar system. South Korea is also sending coast guard ships to escort fishing boats near the western sea island of Yeonpyeong.
Speculation was growing that last Monday's underground nuclear test and subsequent missile launches were related to a power shift in North Korea. On Tuesday, South Korean media and an opposition lawmaker said 67-year-old Kim Jong Il's youngest son, Jong Un, 26, has been picked to be the next leader.
The announcement to North Korea's ruling party, government and military officials came after the nuclear test, South Korean newspapers Hankook Ilbo and Dong-a Ilbo reported.
The long-range missile being prepared could be timed to coincide with a June 16 summit in Washington between South Korean President Lee Myung-bak and President Barack Obama.
The missile is believed to have a range of up to 4,000 miles (6,500 kilometers), the JoongAng Ilbo newspaper reported, citing an unnamed South Korean official. That would put Alaska and the Pacific island of Guam, which has major U.S. military assets, within range.
Satellite images indicated the North had transported the missile to the new Dongchang-ni facility near China and could be ready to be fired in the next week or so, Yonhap reported.
A U.S. official confirmed the Yonhap report and said the missile was moved by train, although he did not comment on where it was moved to, and said it could be more than a week before Pyongyang was ready to launch. He spoke on condition of anonymity because the issue involved intelligence.
The U.N. Security Council was considering punitive action for the May 25 nuclear test. U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice said Monday that key powers were making progress on a new U.N. resolution that will almost certainly expand sanctions against North Korea for conducting a second nuclear test in defiance of the Security Council. It had conducted one in 2006.
But, complicating the situation, a trial was set to begin Thursday in Pyongyang of two American journalists, Laura Ling and Euna Lee, accused of entering the country illegally and engaging in "hostile acts."
Yonhap said Tuesday that North Korea has also moved a South Korean worker detained just north of the border in March to the nation's capital.
The Koreas ended their three-year war in 1953 with a truce, but North Korea said last week it would no longer abide by its conditions. It also disputes the U.N.-drawn western sea border, around which deadly clashes with South Korea occurred in 1999 and 2002.
No incidents have been reported in the Demilitarized Zone that separates the two Koreas, and life seemed normal on the North Korean side of the Yalu River, which marks the country's border with China.
Available at: http://www.etaiwannews.com/etn/news_content.php?id=965260&lang=eng_news
A United States government official who played a key role in freezing North Korean assets in 2005 will be part of an American delegation visiting Seoul this week, perhaps signaling that the international community will look to impose financial sanctions against Pyongyang following its nuclear test last week.
Stuart Levey, the U.S. Treasury Department’s undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, is part of the American delegation led by Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg. The group arrives in South Korea today for a two-day visit as part of a larger visit to China, Japan and Russia. Those four nations, as well as the United States and North Korea, are dialogue partners in the six-party nuclear disarmament talks. North Korea, however, has said it will never return to those discussions.
Steinberg is also traveling with Stephen Bosworth, the special U.S. representative on North Korea policy; Wallace Gregson, assistant secretary of defense for Asian and Pacific security affairs, and Jeffrey Bader, senior director for Asian affairs on the National Security Council.
A diplomatic source in Seoul said the “diplomatic heavyweights” are making the rounds “to prepare a comprehensive and all-encompassing” response to the North Korean issue.
Levey’s name certainly stands out. In 2005, Levey was instrumental in freezing about $25 million of North Korean assets at the Banco Delta Asia bank in Macao. According to Levey’s article on the Institute for Korean-American Studies’ Web site in 2007, the U.S. Treasury Department at the time found the BDA to be a “primary money laundering concern” and determined that the bank had facilitated “the gamut of illicit activities ... on behalf of North Korean-related entities.”
Following the department’s move, some 20 financial companies around the world cut their ties with North Korea and stopped the flow of dollars to the reclusive regime.
The United Nations Security Council is still working on a possible resolution, which could include financial embargoes. Following the North’s long-range rocket launch on April 5, the Security Council named three North Korean companies to the sanctions list, subject to various measures such as an asset freeze. When asked to comment on Levey’s visit to Seoul, a high-ranking Foreign Ministry official here said South Korea supports “tough restriction of funds or materials that go into nuclear or missile development.”
The U.S. officials are scheduled to meet with Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan, First Vice Foreign Minister Kwon Jong-rak and Kim Sung-hwan, the Blue House Senior Secretary for Foreign Affairs and National Security. The Foreign Ministry said Levey is not scheduled to meet with any financial officials in Seoul.
Available at: http://joongangdaily.joins.com/article/view.asp?aid=2905586
4. U.S. Says Will Not Accept N.Korea as Nuclear State
(for personal use only)
U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said on Saturday the United States would not accept a nuclear-armed North Korea and he warned Pyongyang against transferring nuclear material overseas.
A South Korean newspaper reported that Pyongyang was preparing to move an intercontinental ballistic missile from a factory near the capital to a launch site on the east coast.
In a speech to the Asia Security Conference in Singapore, Gates said the threat from North Korea, which this week detonated a nuclear device and launched a series of missiles, could start an arms race in Asia.
"We will not stand idly by as North Korea builds the capability to wreak destruction on any target in the region or on us," he said. "We will not accept North Korea as a nuclear state."
North Korea -- one of the world's last remaining Communist states -- has said it was no longer bound by the armistice that ended the 1950-53 Korean War. It threatened further actions in response to any U.N. censure.
Gates said Washington would hold North Korea accountable if it transferred any nuclear material outside its borders.
Impoverished North Korea has earned billions of dollars from exporting missile technology to Pakistan and the Middle East, defense analysts say.
Gates did not elaborate on how the United States might respond. He had earlier said no additional troops were being deployed to the peninsula, where 28,000 U.S. soldiers are stationed, and he emphasized diplomacy in his remarks.
South Korean and U.S. troops were on heightened alert over the possibility that Pyongyang may provoke an incident along their heavily armed border.
North Korea has said it might test an intercontinental ballistic missile in response to U.N. punishment for what Pyongyang said was a satellite launch on April 5.
"Preparations to move an ICBM from the Saneum Weapons Research Center near Pyongyang by train have been captured by U.S. spy satellites," South Korea's Dong-a Ilbo newspaper quoted a source in Washington as saying.
The research lab is the North's main center of research and manufacture of long-range missiles, the newspaper said.
South Korea's defense ministry had no immediate comment.
A U.S. defense official said the United States had observed "above average activity" at a site in North Korea that has previously been used to test-fire long-range missiles.
In New York, the United States and Japan circulated a draft U.N. Security Council resolution condemning the claimed nuclear test and demanding strict enforcement of sanctions imposed after the North's first atomic test in October 2006.
In Moscow, the Kremlin said Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso agreed on the need for a serious response to North Korea.
"The parties shared the view that there is a need to most seriously respond to these steps, representing a challenge to the international security system," a Kremlin statement said.
Gates said North Korea was not a direct military threat now.
"If (the North Koreans) continue on a path they are on, I think the consequences for stability in the region are significant and I think it poses the potential for some kind of an arms race in this region," Gates said.
He met with his South Korean and Japanese counterparts on the sidelines of the Singapore conference.
Western diplomats said permanent Security Council members Russia and China have agreed in principle that North Korea should be sanctioned for its nuclear test but it was not clear what kind of penalties they would support. Both are generally reluctant to approve sanctions.
"Our hope is that all parties concerned will remain cool-headed and take measures to address the problem," Ma Xiaotian, The Chinese army's deputy chief, told the conference.
"Our view is that the Korean peninsula should move toward denuclearization."
U.S. officials have urged China to pressure North Korea to step back from nuclear brinkmanship and return to stalled disarmament talks. But many Chinese analysts say Washington overstates Beijing's sway over Pyongyang, as well as their government's willingness to use that influence.
North Korea was celebrating the nuclear test in rallies and meetings across the country, "highly proud and honored with the status of the country as a nuclear weapons state," the official KCNA news agency said.
Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/newsOne/idUSSEO14165620090530?pageNumber=1&virtualBrandChannel=0
Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum on Tuesday voiced support for Iran’s peaceful nuclear program.
Iran’s nuclear work is a national issue while the UAE is confident about its peaceful nature, he said.
He pointed to the Iranian islands and said Tehran and Abu Dhabi need no foreign interference to settle their disputes over the three islands.
All differences between the two sides would be patched up through peaceful ways, said the premier.
He hailed the increasing value of trade ties between Iran and the UAE and said the two sides enjoy deep-rooted and amicable relations.
Al-Maktoum reiterated that the UAE will never interfere in internal affairs of other countries particularly Iran and said he always stresses the importance of improving ties with all countries.
He added that his country’s foreign policy is based on establishment of friendly relations with countries based on mutual respect, peaceful coexistence, non-interference in countries’ internal affairs and observance of interests.
He expressed hope that Middle East would be freed from weapons of mass destruction.
Available at: http://www.tehrantimes.com/Index_view.asp?code=195965
President Barack Obama suggested that Iran may have some right to nuclear energy - provided it proves by the end of the year that its aspirations are peaceful.
In a BBC interview broadcast Tuesday, he also restated plans to pursue direct diplomacy with Tehran to encourage it set aside any ambitions for nuclear weapons it might harbor.
Iran has insisted its nuclear program is aimed at generating electricity. But the U.S. and other Western governments accuse Tehran of seeking atomic weapons.
"What I do believe is that Iran has legitimate energy concerns, legitimate aspirations," Obama said, adding that the international community also "has a very real interest" in preventing a nuclear arms race.
The president has indicated a willingness to seek deeper international sanctions against Tehran if it does not respond positively to U.S. attempts to open negotiations on its nuclear program. Obama has said Tehran has until the end of the year to show it wants to engage with Washington.
"Although I don't want to put artificial time tables on that process, we do want to make sure that, by the end of this year, we've actually seen a serious process move forward. And I think that we can measure whether or not the Iranians are serious," Obama said.
Obama's interview offered a preview of a speech he is to deliver in Egypt this week, saying he hoped the address would warm relations between Americans and Muslims abroad.
"What we want to do is open a dialogue," Obama told the BBC. "You know, there are misapprehensions about the West, on the part of the Muslim world. And, obviously, there are some big misapprehensions about the Muslim world when it comes to those of us in the West."
Obama leaves in the evening on a trip to Egypt and Saudi Arabia aimed at reaching out to the world's 1.5 billion Muslims. He is due to make his speech in Cairo on Thursday.
Obama sounded an optimistic note about making progress toward resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, although he offered no new ideas for how he might try to secure a freeze on new building of Israeli settlements. The United States has called for a freeze, but Israeli leaders have rejected that.
Asked what he would say during his visit about human rights abuses, including the detention of political prisoners in Egypt, Obama indicated no stern lecture would be forthcoming.
He said he hoped to deliver the message that democratic values are principles that "they can embrace and affirm."
Obama added that there is a danger "when the United States, or any country, thinks that we can simply impose these values on another country with a different history and a different culture."
Available at: http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2009/06/02/politics/main5056426.shtml
Pakistan's nuclear security is completely indigenous, and Islamabad is not getting any help from other countries in this regard, a Foreign Office spokesman said on Tuesday.
Commenting on a press report that Pakistan was being helped by friendly countries for its nuclear security needs, the spokesman said Pakistan had a well-established nuclear command and control authority, which is, besides other things, responsible for the security of the country’s nuclear programme. "Our command, control, safety and security systems are equal to, if not better than other nuclear-armed states," the spokesman said. "In the civilian realm, Pakistan has benefited from the best international practices and we maintain close interaction with the International Atomic Energy Agency." He said Pakistan was also a member of the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism where it interacted with all member states to enhance mutual understanding.
Available at: http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2009%5C06%5C03%5Cstory_3-6-2009_pg7_21
The current slowdown might result in a boost for Chinese nuclear energy. Ambitious targets could be raised further, while current build rates appear to make the new goals achievable.
Plans for nuclear energy's role in China's fast-growing power sector are under revision at the National Energy Administration (NEA), according to reports from the country's official Xinhua news agency.
The head of the NEA, Zhang Guobao, recently wrote in the Qiu Shi journal that China should use the current financial uncertainty as an opportunity to review its plans. Meanwhile, Zhou Xian, a director at the NEA, told a Beijing conference that 'the golden time for China's nuclear power development has come' and that it would boost development at coastal sites where the majority of growth is already planned.
Separately, Sun Qin of the NEA told a press conference that nuclear power could make up 5% of Chinese generating capacity by 2020 - which would mean over 72 GWe taken in line with other projections. The figure would represent a significant jump upwards from the current target of 60 GWe, which itself replaced a former goal of 40 GWe.
This compares to a goal for wind capacity of 100 GWe by 2020 and a total national capacity of 1400 to 1500 GWe, dominated by coal.
Xinhua reported Sun as saying no final plan is ready and more work would be required before any revisions could be given to the State Council.
To reach a capacity of around 72 GWe by 2020, China will have to build around 60 more reactors in 11 years. Given that eleven reactors are currently under construction with six of those construction starts coming last year, that build rate would have continue or increase slightly up to 2016 in order to meet the goal.
After developing its own nuclear power technologies, China has since imported a range of power reactor types from global vendors. From a French import it went on to develop the CPR-1000 design, which it can now build almost completely using domestic contractors. The other main strand of nuclear technology is to be based on America's Westinghouse AP1000. The first four of those units will be completed in coming years, with Chinese technologists and manufacturers mastering its systems in order to move on to mass domestic deployment.
Available at: http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/NN_China_to_set_even_higher_nuclear_targets_0106091.html
2. Canada Close to Inking Nuclear Deal with India: Day
The Canadian Press
(for personal use only)
Canada is poised to sign a deal with India to sell nuclear technology and materials to the energy-starved South Asian juggernaut, International Trade Minister Stockwell Day said Wednesday.
The pact will open up the lucrative Indian market to Canadian nuclear exports for the first time in more than three decades.
"We're very close to having an agreement with India related to the civilian use of nuclear energy for the purpose of helping them meet their energy needs," Day said in an interview.
A senior Indian diplomat told the Press Trust of India on Wednesday that negotiators are on the verge of finalizing the pact.
Shashishekhar M. Gavai, India's high commissioner to Canada, told the news agency that Canadian and Indian officials have already exchanged the draft agreement.
"An expert Canadian team was in Mumbai last week to work out, with the Atomic Energy Commission of India, final technical details and conditions under which business can be done," he said.
Gavai could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
In January, Crown-owned Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd., signed a deal with Indian heavy engineering giant Larsen & Toubro to start costing out next-generation nuclear reactors - the prelude to a possible sale.
That deal hinged on the governments of Canada and India signing a nuclear co-operation agreement.
Day said that bilateral deal is imminent.
"We're close. I don't like to put an hour and a day on it, but these are fairly complicated agreements and we're just about there," he said. "There's just a few items left."
Canada stopped nuclear co-operation with India in 1974 after its government used plutonium from a Canadian reactor to build an atomic bomb.
The international community lifted a three-decade ban on nuclear trade with India last September - even though India still refuses to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Some anti-nuclear activists worry India will stockpile domestic uranium for military weapons and use uranium imports for civilian purposes.
Canadian negotiators insisted India allow nuclear inspectors into civilian facilities, Day said. Under the deal, he said, Canadian nuclear exports cannot be used for military purposes.
Countries are lining up to sell to India - which wants to build 25 to 30 new reactors in the coming years - now that the moratorium has ended.
"The estimation is over the next 20 years, something like anywhere from $50 to $150 billion worth of civil nuclear energy needs are what we're looking at," Day said.
"So there's a great opportunity here for the Canadian industry."
On Tuesday, a senior executive from AECL told a Senate finance committee the Crown corporation is eyeing foreign markets for its next-generation ACR 1000 reactors.
Saskatchewan's Cameco Corp., is also poised to sell uranium to India.
But Canada and India must finalize a formal deal before any commercial deals are inked.
AECL's future hinges on a successful bid to build two nuclear reactors in Ontario and continued sales and maintenance work abroad.
The federally owned firm has partnered with four private-sector companies to bid on the Ontario deal. The consortium proposes to build two ACR-1000s - a new and untried design.
The Conservative government gave AECL $135 million in this year's budget to help complete design work on the ACR 1000.
AECL is up against Areva Group of France and U.S.-based Westinghouse Electric Co.
The province is expected to award the reactor contract this summer, though Ontario's energy minister has said the decision could be delayed.
AECL did not return calls for comment.
Available at: http://cnews.canoe.ca/CNEWS/Canada/2009/05/27/9590911-cp.html
1. Agt on New START Still Real During Obama visit - Kremlin
(for personal use only)
The Kremlin believes that at this point there still remain chances of concluding a fundamental agreement on a new strategic arms reduction treaty (START) during US President Barack Obama’s visit to Moscow this summer, presidential press-secretary Natalya Timakova told a news briefing on Tuesday.
Obama is to visit Moscow on July 6-8.
“The complicated negotiating process (for achieving fundamental agreements on the parameters of a new version of the strategic arms reduction treaty) is continuing,” Timakova said in reply to a question from Itar-Tass. “Active bilateral consultations are underway between the presidential staffs and foreign ministries.”
“I would not say that we shall fail to achieve some more specific agreement,” Timakova said. “The work is in progress, and it is too early to say whether the negotiators will be through or not by Obama’s visit,” she added.
Available at: http://www.itar-tass.com/eng/level2.html?NewsID=14004221&PageNum=0
2. NNSA Concludes Nuclear Security Training with Singapore Emergency Response Teams
National Nuclear Security Administration
(for personal use only)
The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) today announced that it concluded a series of nuclear emergency training sessions involving more than 100 participants from the Singapore government and medical professions. The emergency training was designed to enhance Singapore’s capabilities to respond to any nuclear or radiological incident.
“Sharing NNSA’s nuclear emergency response expertise by providing training helps improve the global effort to prevent and respond to nuclear and radiological emergencies,” said Joseph Krol, NNSA associate administrator for emergency operations. “Our recent workshop in Singapore demonstrates our commitment to cooperative efforts to promote global nuclear security and counter international nuclear terrorism.”
NNSA’s primary mission is to ensure the safety, security and reliability of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile without underground nuclear testing. Because of this expertise, the agency also provides nuclear emergency response support to local law enforcement, DHS, the FBI and emergency responders in other countries.
During a training program in Singapore, NNSA officials provided briefings on its nuclear and radiological emergency response program at the sessions. The training, which took place from May 26th through 28th included:
-A radiological search workshop to help improve the ability of local authorities to search for, detect, and identify illicit radiological materials;
-Fission meter training to train personnel on equipment that identifies and pinpoints nuclear and radiological material in shipping containers; and
-Radiation medical emergency training to provide medical personnel with procedures to address radiation emergencies and minimize contamination.
NNSA currently collaborates with over 60 foreign governments and 10 international organizations with projects ranging from providing assistance to foreign governments in improving their emergency preparedness and response programs, to joint collaborative activities to improve emergency management infrastructure worldwide. Additional information about NNSA’s emergency operations is online: http://www.nnsa.energy.gov/news/1759.htm.
Established by Congress in 2000, NNSA is a semi-autonomous agency within the U.S. Department of Energy responsible for enhancing national security through the military applications of nuclear science in the nation’s national security enterprise. NNSA maintains and enhances the safety, security, reliability, and performance of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile without nuclear testing; reduces the global danger from weapons of mass destruction; provides the U.S. Navy with safe and effective nuclear propulsion; and responds to nuclear and radiological emergencies in the U.S. and abroad.
Available at: http://nnsa.energy.gov/news/2395.htm
3. U.S. and Russia Push Arms-Control Talks Forward
Wall Street Journal
(for personal use only)
U.S. and Russian arms-control negotiators arrived in Geneva on Monday to accelerate negotiations on the first major nuclear-arms reduction treaty in at least a decade, pressing for a framework agreement ahead of a Moscow summit next month.
The Obama administration is moving its arms-control agenda forward on multiple fronts, hoping to further isolate North Korea and Iran, a senior administration official said this weekend.
Last week, the White House scored a breakthrough on a long-stalled international treaty banning all production of fissile materials for nuclear weapons world-wide.
This month, the International Atomic Energy Agency will discuss a proposal, embraced by U.S. President Barack Obama, to set up "nuclear-fuel banks," where countries could acquire fuel for reactors without creating enrichment programs of their own.
The negotiations to secure significant reductions in Russian and U.S. offensive nuclear stockpiles and nuclear-weapons delivery systems appear to be on track for a framework agreement by the July 6 Moscow summit and a final treaty by December, White House officials say.
"We're working very hard to have something by Moscow," the senior U.S. administration official said.
Conservative arms-control analysts say they are alarmed by the speed with which the Obama team is moving forward. The administration hasn't finished a mandatory comprehensive study of U.S. nuclear-arms policy or a broader study of defense, known as the quadrennial review. Yet the White House is pressing to secure binding international treaties that presuppose the outcomes of those studies, said Baker Spring, an arms-control analyst at the conservative Heritage Foundation.
"You can always make progress if you make enough concessions," said John Bolton, a former ambassador to the United Nations in the Bush administration. "It gives the appearance of movement, but it's a retrograde movement."
However, White House officials and supporters in the arms-control community say the efforts are reinvigorating an international consensus against nuclear proliferation, and shifting international attitudes toward outliers, such as North Korea and Iran.
Two weeks ago, an international meeting agreed quickly on an agenda for next year's review of the international nonproliferation treaty, said Daryl G. Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association in Washington. Given the push from Washington, Mr. Kimball described the atmosphere at these meetings -- usually tedious -- as "electric."
The White House is willing to break with Bush policy. Multicountry negotiations on a fissile-materials ban stalled more than a decade ago. First, under the Clinton administration, some countries demanded that fissile-materials negotiations include formal talks on nuclear disarmament and a ban on weapons in space. Then the Bush administration said it wouldn't accept any verification procedures in any fissile-materials treaty.
Mr. Obama embraced a verifiable treaty in his April nuclear-arms-control speech in Prague.
Then, last week, the administration jumped on an Algerian proposal to accompany fissile-materials negotiations with informal discussions on space and disarmament.
White House officials wouldn't lay out their targets for the treaty with Russia, but the Arms Control Association's Mr. Kimball said deployed nuclear weapons in each country could be reduced by 30% to 40% from the current limit of 2,200. Warhead-delivery systems could be cut by half.
Available at: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124390601703674919.html
4. US and Russia Hold Second Round of START Arms Talks
(for personal use only)
Russian and US negotiators are due to meet in Geneva on Monday for a second round of talks on renewing a key Cold War-era arms reduction deal, a month before their leaders hold a landmark summit.
Diplomats said the three day meeting on the START treaty would be held behind closed doors at an undisclosed location, mirroring the discretion surrounding the first round in Moscow nearly two weeks ago.
"On the details of the negotiation, I think we prefer to keep that in private right now. I think that's just the best way to conduct these kinds of negotiations," US State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said in Washington.
First results from the talks are expected to be unveiled by Presidents Barack Obama and Dmitry Medvedev during their summit meeting in Moscow on July 6 to 8, a Russian diplomat said.
Despite a thaw in US-Russian relations following the departure of the Bush administration, analysts were expecting little concrete progress on the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, which expires on December 5.
On top of the complex technical issues surrounding the landmark treaty -- which took a decade to reach agreement on the deep cuts in US and Soviet nuclear arsenals after the fall of the Iron Curtain -- the negotiations are also hampered by differing ambitions.
"The sides are not in the same position. Obama needs a result to demonstrate that the 'reset' of US-Russian relations is getting somewhere," said Evgeny Volk of the Heritage Foundation.
Earlier this year, Vice President Joseph Biden unveiled the Obama administration's fresh approach to fractious US relations with the old Cold War foe, saying it wanted to press the 'reset' button.
Disarmament expert Jozef Goldblat said the START talks allowed the United States to create a climate "propitious for help with other more complicated subjects" where Washington needs Moscow's support, such as Iran and North Korea's controversial nuclear programmes.
However, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has not concealed Moscow's desire to broaden the talks to take account of the planned US anti-missile shield in Europe.
The United States has insisted that the defensive shield is meant to counter an Iranian threat.
But Russia regards the shield, which would partly be based in former eastern bloc countries close to its borders, as a threat to its own security.
"The number one stumbling block is the anti missile shield," said Volk. "Moscow wants Washington to give up deployment but the Americans are against that."
Russian military analyst Alexander Goltz said the negotiations also helped Moscow recover some of its prestige.
"The Russians are aiming to make the process last as long as possible, because the talks restore their status as a world power," he explained.
Russian officials hailed the "constructive and business-like" atmosphere of the first round, but US delegation chief Rose Gottemoeller warned before the talks even began that the process could be more drawn out than expected.
Goltz played down expectations for the Obama-Medvedev summit because the two sides were too far apart.
But veteran disarmament observer Goldblat suggested an elegant way out: a five year extension of START that would give time for negotiations on a "broader" disarmament deal between the world's biggest nuclear powers.
Available at: http://www.mysinchew.com/node/25274?tid=14
Rising out of the rolling fields of southern Siberia, a complex of hulking metal buildings, piping and high-security fencing formally opened Friday to cope with one of the nastiest legacies of the Cold War.
Russian and U.S. officials dedicated the high-tech plant, built with the help of $1 billion from the U.S., to destroy about 2 million chemical weapons shells.
The opening was a major step toward disposing of Russia’s huge stockpile of Soviet-era weapons of mass destruction and a rare example of cooperation between two nations that still don’t quite trust one another two decades after the Soviet collapse.
The 25ucture complex, the size of a small town, was largely funded under the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction initiative —- named for former Sen. Sam Nunn (D-Ga.) and Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) —- which was launched a year after the Soviet collapse.
Lugar told those gathered for the dedication Friday that “The path to peace and prosperity for both Russia and the United States depends on how we resolve the threats posed by the arsenals built to fight World War III. Thankfully that confrontation never came. But today we must ensure that the weapons are never used, and never fall into the hands of those who would do harm to us or others.”
“The United States and Russia have too much at stake and too many common interests to allow our relationship to drift toward conflict,” he said, referring to recent tensions over last year’s brief war between Russia and U.S.-allied Georgia.
The weapons at Shchuchye, loaded with nerve gases including VX and sarin, have a cataclysmic potential for terrorist attacks. If set off in a tightly packed area, each could kill tens of thousands of people. And many are small enough to fit in a briefcase.
Russian officials claim the facility will allow the country to destroy all chemical weapons by 2012, although Lugar said that goal probably won’t be met.
The plant’s opening comes at a symbolically important time, as Russia and the U.S. negotiate a replacement for the START nuclear arms reduction treaty, which expires this year.
Available at: http://www.ajc.com/services/content/printedition/2009/05/30/bioweapons0530.html
6. U.S. and Jamaica Begin Radiation Detection Operations at the Port of Kingston
National Nuclear Security Administration
(for personal use only)
The U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) today announced the successful start of operations of radiation detection equipment at the Port of Kingston in Jamaica. Specialized equipment installed by NNSA, in cooperation with the U.S. Embassy in Kingston, Jamaica Customs, the Port Authority of Jamaica and the private terminal operator, will scan all import and export containers passing through the port’s Kingston Wharves Limited (KWL) Terminal for the presence of dangerous nuclear and other radioactive materials.
“The successful start of Megaports operations at the Port of Kingston highlights the shared commitment of the United States and Jamaica to promoting nuclear security by enhancing the security of the global maritime system,” said NNSA Principal Assistant Deputy Administrator for Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation Ken Baker. “President Obama has made an unprecedented commitment to preventing the threat of nuclear terrorism by securing dangerous nuclear and other radioactive materials and keeping those materials out of the hands of proliferators and terrorist organizations. This cooperation increases our capability to identify illicit shipments of special nuclear and other radioactive materials and bolsters the worldwide effort to prevent nuclear proliferation and terrorism.”
As part of its Megaports Initiative, NNSA installed and tested the radiation detection equipment and the associated communications system, and also provided Jamaica Customs with training on equipment operations. Jamaica Customs is now operating the radiation detection equipment and assessing and responding to radiation alarms. NNSA will continue to work with Jamaica over the next several years to provide continued training and sustainability support. Additionally, NNSA plans to expand the Megaports Initiative in Jamaica by equipping the port’s other high-volume transshipment terminal, the Kingston Container Terminal, with radiation detection equipment next fiscal year.
Earlier this year, President Obama outlined a broad nuclear security agenda that includes a far-reaching commitment to keeping special nuclear and other radioactive materials out of the hands of terrorist organizations and would-be proliferators. The Megaports Initiative is part of NNSA’s Second Line of Defense Program, which aims to strengthen the capability of foreign governments to deter, detect, and interdict illicit trafficking in nuclear and other radioactive materials across international borders and through the global maritime shipping system. The Megaports Initiative provides radiation detection equipment, training, and technical support to key international seaports to scan cargo containers for nuclear and other radioactive materials.
Around the world, the Megaports Initiative is currently operating in 22 ports, with work underway in at least 20 additional ports in Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.
A fact sheet on NNSA’s Second Line of Defense program is available at http://www.nnsa.energy.gov/news/2299.htm.
Jamaica has also partnered with NNSA under the Global Threat Reduction Initiative (GTRI), which seeks to reduce and protect vulnerable nuclear and radiological materials located at civilian sites worldwide.
A fact sheet on NNSA’s Global Threat Reduction Initiative is available at http://www.nnsa.energy.gov/news/2330.htm.
Established by Congress in 2000, NNSA is a semi-autonomous agency within the U.S. Department of Energy responsible for enhancing national security through the military application of nuclear science in the nation’s national security enterprise. NNSA maintains and enhances the safety, security, reliability, and performance of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile without nuclear testing; reduces the global danger from weapons of mass destruction; provides the U.S. Navy with safe and effective nuclear propulsion; and responds to nuclear and radiological emergencies in the U.S. and abroad.
Available at: http://nnsa.energy.gov/news/2390.htm
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