1. Pak Goes Ballistic about Report on Nuclear Complex Attacks
The Times of India
(for personal use only)
American military leaders are ''comfortable with the security measures the Pakistani government and the Pakistani military have in place to ensure that their nuclear arsenal is safeguarded,'' a Pentagon official said on Tuesday even as Islamabad flew into a rage over reports of extremist attacks on its nuclear infrastructure, and questions about its safety and security.
A study by a British academic published in an American military journal about little-known terrorist attacks on Pakistan’s nuclear complexes – reported in this paper on Monday – was the subject of fervid discussion in Washington’s political and military circles amid continued disquiet in the strategic community. But the US administration publicly expressed satisfaction at the steps Pakistan has taken to protect its nuclear arsenal while doubting if the three reported attacks on nuclear complexes were specifically aimed at grabbing nuclear weapons.
''First I've heard of it. I don't think I'm in a position to talk to you about it in particular,'' Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morell said at a briefing when his attention was drawn to the paper by British analyst Shaun Gregory in West Point’s CTC Sentinel journal, adding, ''I can just repeat what you've heard time and time again from Chairman Mullen and from Secretary Gates, that they are comfortable with the security measures the Pakistani government, the Pakistani military have in place to ensure that their nuclear arsenal is safeguarded.''
But the reporting of the academic analysis in the news domain invited apoplectic reactions from Pakistan, where officials saw all kinds of dark designs and conspiracies in questions about the security of its nuclear weapons examined in the British study. ''It is rubbish. These aspersions are factually incorrect and are part of typical propaganda campaign to malign Pakistan,'' a Pakistani military spokesman was quoted as telling the media in Islamabad.
Unnamed US intelligence officials also endorsed the steps Pakistan had taken to secure its nuclear weapons and doubted the seriousness of the terrorist attack. The New York Times, in a blog, referred to the ToI report , and said, ''in response to questions about Gregory’s article, which was also the basis for a report on Tuesday in The Times of India, an American intelligence official told The (New York) Times that those attacks did not necessarily suggest that militants were necessarily singling out nuclear sites.''
The official told the paper: ''These are large facilities. It’s not clear that the attackers knew what these bases might have contained. In addition, the mode of attack was curious. If they were after something specific, or were truly seeking entry, you’d think they might use a different tactic, one that’s been employed elsewhere – such as a bomb followed by a small-arms assault. Simply touching off an explosive outside the gate of a base – with no follow-up — doesn’t get you inside.''
But in his paper, Gregory addressed precisely these issues, while stating the significance of the three attacks he described ''is difficult to overstate.''
According to Gregory, Pakistani civilian nuclear weapons sites --those sites where Pakistan’s nuclear weapons are manufactured, assembled or taken for refurbishment --are typically less protected than military sites where nuclear weapons are stored, deployed and operated, a problem the Pakistan Army has now moved to address. The attacks at the Wah cantonment, he says, highlight the vulnerability of nuclear weapons infrastructure sites to at least three forms of terrorist assault: a) an attack to cause a fire at a nuclear weapons facility, which would create a radiological hazard; b) an attack to cause an explosion at a nuclear weapons facility involving a nuclear weapon or components, which would create a radiological hazard; or c) an attack with the objective of seizing control of nuclear weapons components or possibly a nuclear weapon.
''On the latter point, Pakistan’s usual separation of nuclear weapons components is compromised to a degree by the need to assemble weapons at certain points in the manufacture and refurbishment cycle at civilian sites, and by the requirement for co-location of the separate components at military sites so that they can be mated quickly if necessary in crises. Furthermore, the emergence of new terrorist tactics in Pakistan (and of Pakistani terrorists in India) in which groups of armed combatants act in coordination on the ground -- sometimes in combination with suicide or vehicle bomb attacks at entry points to facilitate access -- suggests the credibility of such an assault on a nuclear weapons facility; this is especially true because in a number of these attacks the security has been poor and disorganized, and the terrorists have been able to escape and remain at large,'' Gregory writes.
The British analyst also questions the broad acceptance in the strategic community about the efficacy of Pakistan’s personnel screening program to weed out extremists from the country’s nuclear establishment, warning that ''No screening program will ever be able to weed out all Islamist sympathizers or anti-Westerners among Pakistan’s military or among civilians with nuclear weapons expertise.''
''The risk of the Pakistani Taliban or al-Qaida gaining access to nuclear weapons, components or technical knowledge takes on an even graver dimension once the possibility of collusion is introduced,'' he says, writing that ''It is widely accepted that there is a strong element within the Pakistan Army and within the lead intelligence agency, the ISI, that is anti-Western, particularly anti-US, and that there also exists an overlapping pro-Islamist strand.''
But the unnamed US official batting for Pakistan was quite sanguine about the study, saying he wouldn’t extrapolate from the incidents reported in Gregory’s paper ''any kind of downgrade in the security of the Pakistani nuclear arsenal.''
Available at: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/news/world/us/Pak-goes-ballistic-about-report-on-nuclear-complex-attacks/articleshow/4884892.cms
Pakistan's nuclear facilities have come under attack from the Taliban and other groups and there is a genuine risk militants could seize weapons or bomb-making material, an article published in a West Point think tank newsletter said.
The Pentagon, seeking to bolster Pakistan's government in its fight against al Qaeda and Pakistani Taliban forces, expressed satisfaction with security at the facilities.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, are comfortable with the security measures the Pakistani government, the Pakistani military have in place to ensure that their nuclear arsenal is safeguarded, press secretary Geoff Morrell told reporters.
The Combating Terrorism Center, which is housed at the US Military Academy at West Point, published the article in the July edition of its Sentinel newsletter, copies of which were distributed widely.
The centre said the views expressed in the article were those of the author, and not those of West Point, the Army or the Defense Department.
Written by Shaun Gregory, director of the Pakistan Security Research Unit at the University of Bradford in Britain, the article detailed three attacks against Pakistan's nuclear facilities, and warned that sites in the country may be vulnerable to infiltration.
"The risk of the transfer of nuclear weapons, weapons components or nuclear expertise to terrorists in Pakistan is genuine," the article said.
US officials say Washington has taken steps to mitigate the risks, such as by giving Pakistan assistance in checking containers leaving from key ports for radioactive materials.
Gregory wrote that Pakistani forces guarding the facilities underwent a selection process to keep militant sympathizers out.
For added protection, warhead cores are separated from their detonators, and these components are kept in underground sites.
Some 8,000 to 10,000 members of the Pakistani army's Strategic Plans Division and other intelligence agencies are involved in providing security and monitoring, he said, citing interviews with Pakistani and French officials.
"Despite these elaborate safeguards, empirical evidence points to a clear set of weaknesses and vulnerabilities in Pakistan's nuclear safety and security arrangements," Gregory wrote.
To guard against a possible Indian offensive, Pakistan located most of its nuclear weapons infrastructure in the north and west of the country, and in areas near Islamabad and Rawalpindi.
"The concern, however, is that most of Pakistan's nuclear sites are close or even within areas dominated by Pakistani Taliban militants" and al-Qaeda, Gregory said.
He cited three attacks - one on a nuclear missile storage facility in November 2007, one a month later on a nuclear airbase, and an August 2008 attack in which Pakistani Taliban suicide bombers blew up several entry points to an armament complex at one of Pakistan's nuclear weapons assembly sites.
A US intelligence official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the facilities described by Gregory were large and it was unclear whether the attackers knew what they contained.
"If they were after something specific, or were truly seeking entry, you'd think they might use a different tactic, one that's been employed elsewhere - such as a bomb followed by a small-arms assault," the intelligence official said.
"Simply touching off an explosive outside the gate of a base - with no follow-up - doesn't get you inside. For those reasons, I wouldn't extrapolate from these incidents any kind of downgrade in the security of the Pakistani nuclear arsenal," the official added.
Pakistan is believed to have stockpiled approximately 580-800 kg of highly enriched uranium, sufficient amounts to build 30-50 fission bombs.
The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists estimated in 2007 that the Pakistani arsenal comprised about 60 warheads.
Available at: http://tvnz.co.nz/world-news/pakistan-nuke-sites-may-vulnerable-2908219
3. Pakistan Holds up Start of UN Nuclear Disarmament Talks
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Pakistan on Monday held up the resumption of nuclear arms control negotiations at the UN Conference on Disarmament as it asked to reopen a work plan already agreed on by the main nuclear powers.
The Pakistan delegation, which on Friday asked for more time to consult with Islamabad, on Monday said it wanted fresh discussions on procedural questions in a draft text detailing the various heads of negotiating groups and the timetable for the talks.
‘I was told by the Pakistan (delegation) that they have received instructions and the instructions are to reopen the text that I thought we had agreed on,’ said Caroline Millar, the Australian chairwoman of the conference.
‘I’m concerned that the compromise that we have may be put in jeopardy,’ she added.
Disarmament negotiations have been stalled since 1996 but a thaw in US-Russia relations following Barack Obama’s arrival in the White House, and a renewed superpower pledge to back the separate Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, generated fresh momentum.
In May, the nuclear powers agreed to restart talks by agreeing on a work plan for 2009 which would cover the issue of full nuclear disarmament, a ban on fissile material and the arms race in outer space.
Pakistan’s ambassador said it was not his country’s intention to hold up progress but it had to work for its own ‘national security interests.’Diplomats expressed dismay at Pakistan’s move.
‘We express our profound disappointment at the latest development in the Conference on Disarmament (CD),’ said Swedish ambassador Magnus Hellgren, speaking on behalf of the European Union.
‘Since the 29th of May, the CD was again involved in endless consultations on mainly practical procedures issues related to the programme of work,’ he said.
Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi is due to address the conference on Wednesday but this has ‘nothing to do’ with Pakistan’s stand, diplomats said.
Pakistan tested its first nuclear weapons in 1998 during in a tense stand-off with long-time rival India which conducted its first test in 1974.
Available at: http://www.dawn.com/wps/wcm/connect/dawn-content-library/dawn/news/world/11-pakistan-holds-up-start-of-un-nuclear-disarmament-talks--il--06
2. Iran Will Not Accept Pressure to Meet Deadline on Nuclear Meeting
Monsters and Critics
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Iran will not accept international pressure to meet a deadline on holding a meeting with world powers on the country's controversial nuclear programme, Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hassan Ghashghavi said Monday.
'We are not against negotiations but we will not allow world powers to pressure us with deadlines,' the spokesman told reporters in Tehran. The five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany - also referred to as the 5+1 - had set September as deadline for holding talks with Iran over the nuclear dispute.
'We have several times said that nuclear weapons have no place in Iran's doctrine,' Ghashghavi said, reiterating that Iran's nuclear programmes were peaceful and the 5+1 concern over a secret military programme baseless.
'But we will resist and not give in to illogical demands,' he added, referring to the international demand to suspend the uranium enrichment process which Iran considers as part of its internationally acknowledged rights to pursue a civil nuclear power programmes.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has several times said that after his re-election, he would adopt a tougher stance toward the West and force it to accept Iran's positions on the nuclear issue.
While rejecting any compromise in Iran's nuclear dispute with the international community, Ahmadinejad also vowed that Iran would only talk with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on nuclear issues and no longer with the 5+1.
Ahmadinejad has also appointed a new chief for Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, Ali-Akbar Salehi, who has expressed hope that the hostilities in the last six years between the world powers and Iran would end and efforts be made for settling the nuclear dispute through mutual trust.
Available at: http://www.monstersandcritics.com/news/middleeast/news/article_1494542.php/Iran-will-not-accept-pressure-to-meet-deadline-on-nuclear-meeting
3. IRAN: Nuclear Capability After 2013, Says U.S. Intelligence
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Iran is unlikely to be able to produce the highly enriched uranium (HEU) necessary for a nuclear weapon until at least 2013, according to a U.S. government intelligence estimate made public Thursday.
The estimate, which sets a notably later date for Iran’s acquisition of a nuclear capability than other claims that have recently been circulated in the media, was prepared by the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR). Director of National Intelligence (DNI) Dennis Blair submitted it in written testimony to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence in February.
The publication of the estimate comes at a particularly sensitive time in Washington, as the U.S. debates how best to proceed in dealing with Iran in the wake of June’s disputed election and the Iranian government’s subsequent crackdown on protesters.
Many Iran analysts have called for the U.S. to do nothing for the time being while the political situation within Iran develops - holding off on its planned engagement with Tehran while at the same time avoiding confrontational measures such as the imposition of additional sanctions.
But hawks in the U.S. and Israel have argued that there is no time to spare in dealing with the Iranian nuclear programme, and that the U.S. should quickly move to sanctions targeting Iran’s refined petroleum imports if engagement does not bear fruit by the end of September.
There has also been a great deal of speculation about whether Israel would undertake a unilateral military strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities if it is not satisfied with the progress of negotiations - Israeli leaders have refused to rule out the possibility.
The INR estimate, which comes on the heels of other estimates suggesting that Iran is years away from a nuclear capability, may serve to defuse the crisis atmosphere that has come to characterise discussion of the issue in Washington and Jerusalem, and bolster those calling for patience in dealing with Tehran.
Blair’s testimony to the Senate, in which the estimate appeared, was released in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request by Steven Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists (FAS), and published by Aftergood on the FAS website Thursday.
The INR estimate stresses that it is not taking a position on whether Iran will make a "political decision" to produce highly enriched uranium (HEU) for a nuclear weapon, but rather on when Iran would have the "functional ability" to produce HEU should it choose to do so.
Iran has denied that it intends to produce a nuclear weapon, insisting that its nuclear programme is for civilian use only.
Blair’s testimony to the Senate states that although Iran has "made significant progress since 2007 in installing and operating centrifuges, INR continues to assess it is unlikely that Iran will have the technical capability to produce HEU before 2013."
The testimony also states that "Iran probably would use military-run covert facilities, rather than declared nuclear sites, to produce HEU."
According to Blair, the broader intelligence community has "no evidence that Iran has yet made the decision to produce highly enriched uranium, and INR assess that Iran is unlikely to make such a decision for at least as long as international scrutiny and pressure persist."
The INR’s estimate is in line with other recent intelligence estimates suggesting that Iran is years away from a deliverable weapon, if it chose to pursue one.
Meir Dagan, chief of the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad, said in June that Iran would be capable of launching a bomb by 2014.
But more alarmist estimates have frequently been circulated in the media, providing grist for hawks who suggest that time is running out to prevent an Iranian bomb.
On Monday, the Times of London reported that Iran "has perfected the technology to create and detonate a nuclear warhead and is merely awaiting the word from its Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, to produce its first bomb."
Citing unnamed "Western intelligence sources," the Times claimed that Iran "could feasibly make a bomb within a year of an order" from Khamenei.
The "one year" estimate - which is met with scepticism by most intelligence analysts - was quickly picked up by hawks as proof that there is no time to waste on engagement.
On Tuesday, former U.S. ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton appeared on Fox News, citing the Times report in suggesting that "pressure [is] building" on Israel to strike Iranian nuclear facilities.
Bolton warned that "we are so close to Iran actually getting a weapon that these fine calibrations that we have got six months, or eight months, or 10 months, all you have to do is be wrong by one day" for the U.S. and Israeli strategic calculus to change dramatically.
On Thursday, Israeli newspaper Haaretz suggested that the "one year" estimate was leaked to the Times by Israeli military intelligence.
Citing the fact that the head of the Israeli Military Intelligence Research Brigade used "almost identical terms to those of the Times" in a Tuesday briefing, Haaretz argued that the "timing of the articles implies that someone in Israel’s defence establishment wanted to deliver an explicit, public declaration" to the media.
The INR report is not the first time that a U.S. intelligence estimate has helped to frame the debate over Iran policy.
In 2007, the release of a National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) concluding that Iran had halted its nuclear weapons programme - as opposed to its civilian nuclear programme - in 2003 was widely seen as critical in alleviating political pressure to take a tougher line on Tehran.
In his February Senate testimony, Blair refused to comment on the status or content of the upcoming NIE. The NIE is the consensus judgment of the all 16 U.S. intelligence agencies, and hence its findings are likely to be the subject of even more heated discussion than the just-released INR estimate.
The release of the Blair’s testimony comes as Iran hawks in the U.S. are exerting increasing political pressure on the Obama administration to ramp up sanctions on Tehran.
Last week, the Forward reported that congressional leaders and hawkish Jewish organisations are planning a concerted political and lobbying effort in September to rally support for increased sanctions.
The primary bill under consideration, the Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act, would punish firms exporting refined petroleum products to Iran.
The Obama administration has suggested that Iran will have until the Sep. 30 meeting of the U.N. General Assembly to respond positively to Washington’s engagement, at which point it will consider more punitive measures.
However, many Iran experts have suggested that Tehran is in no position to negotiate at the moment, due to the political turmoil that followed the Jun. 12 re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, which critics denounce as fraudulent.
As a result, many have called for a "tactical pause" in the U.S. engagement strategy, in the words of National Iranian American Council (NIAC) president Trita Parsi.
The latest intelligence estimate may give the U.S. some political breathing room to pursue such a pause.
Available at: http://www.ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=48005
1. North Korea Looks at New Deal of its Nuclear Cards
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North Korea seems in no rush to restore its old plutonium-producing plant, but that does not mean it has given up on building a bomb and it may now be betting on uranium enrichment instead for its next nuclear bargaining chip.
A switch to uranium would alarm Western powers because it could be done away from the prying eyes of U.S. spy satellites, it may lead to enhanced cooperation with Iran and it could lure customer states keen to start their own nuclear arms programs.
Analysts say Pyongyang now needs to make crucial decisions about whether it should use its limited resources to rebuild its largely inactive Yongbyon plant, which is designed to produce bomb-grade plutonium, start on a full-scale plan to enrich uranium for weapons or use a combination of both.
"It makes little sense to restore an obsolete (plutonium-based) nuclear complex. What makes much more sense is for them to work on the highly enriched uranium (HEU) program," said a well-informed South Korean government source, who declined to be named.
The North has pursued a plutonium-based program for decades. This type of program requires large facilities to produce fuel, a reactor to fire it and a reprocessing plant to separate plutonium from spent fuel rods.
Its Yongbyon plant was being taken apart under a six-country disarmament-for-aid deal that has now all but fallen apart.
"Whether it is restoring Yongbyon or launching a full-scale uranium enrichment program, North Korea is quite a way off from doing either of these," said Daniel Pinkston an expert on North Korea with the International Crisis Group in Seoul.
North Korea, which has twice tested a plutonium-based nuclear device, has produced enough fissile material at Yongbyon for about six to eight nuclear bombs, experts have said.
It has restored its plant that separates plutonium and is extracting fissile material from spent fuel rods at the plant, which could yield it about one more bomb's worth of plutonium.
After the extraction is finished the North will not have a working plutonium or HEU program that could supply it with additional fissile material -- unless it makes major investments.
URANIUM A GOOD MATCH FOR NORTH
Enriching uranium offers numerous advantages for North Korea because it does not require massive structures such as a reactor. Instead, it requires a space where thousands of centrifuges can spin and a great deal of time to produce fissile material.
Unlike its plutonium-based program, enrichment can be done in secret and the country has ample supplies of natural uranium it can use as source materials.
However, experts say that while it is easier to design a standard bomb using HEU, plutonium is a better material to use in a miniaturized nuclear device that can be mounted as a warhead on a missile.
David Albright, head of the Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security, a leading tracker of nuclear proliferation, said there has been no visual evidence yet that the North is rebuilding its demolished cooling tower at Yongbyon, which would indicate plans to fire up its reactor again.
"But I wouldn't conclude it is being abandoned from the mere lack of visual activity," Albright said.
"For example, they may be holding back in case negotiations restart," he added, referring to the now-frozen talks with the United States, China, Japan, South Korea and Japan.
U.S. and South Korean officials said North Korea has previously acquired centrifuges and materials for HEU but experts doubt if Pyongyang, which said earlier this year it had started enriching uranium, yet had anything near a full-scale program.
TROUBLING IRAN LINK
Going the HEU route would present numerous challenges to global powers because it would likely draw military partners North Korea and Iran closer at a time when Washington is trying to stifle the security threat posed by the two states.
Iran has been a major customer for the North's ballistic missiles and has shown few signs of abiding by U.N. sanctions that restrict most arms dealing with Pyongyang.
"There is a terrifying way that North Korea could overcome its limitation while simultaneously helping another nuclear aspirant: it could work with Iran," Siegfried Hecker, the former head of the U.S. Los Alamos nuclear weapons laboratory, wrote earlier this year for the website of Foreign Policy magazine.
"Pyongyang lacks uranium centrifuge materials, technology, and know-how; Tehran has mastered them. Pyongyang has practical uranium metallurgy capabilities; Tehran has little," said Hecker, one of the few U.S. experts to have visited Yongbyon.
The cashapped North, which the United States suspects has sought to sell its nuclear know-how abroad, would also have a new item to market to states wanting to start up their own nuclear arms programs.
Hecker, a professor at Stanford University, wrote separately in an email this week that it makes little sense at this time for North Korea to switch from plutonium to HEU because it would take several years to build a program, even with Iran's help.
"It would make much more sense to restart the ... reactor. The fact that they are not may indicate that they believe their small nuclear stockpile serves as a sufficient deterrent," Hecker said.
Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/newsOne/idUSTRE57B1L920090812?pageNumber=1&virtualBrandChannel=0
The Obama administration moved Tuesday to freeze the assets of a North Korean bank accused of providing financial services to companies involved in Pyongyang's missile programs.
The Treasury Department's action against Korea Kwangson Banking Corp., or KKBC, means any bank accounts or other financial assets found in the United States that belong to the firm are blocked. Americans also are prohibited from doing business with the bank. It is based in North Korea and has operated at least one overseas branch in Dandong, China.
The department alleges that the bank has provided financial services to Tanchon Commercial Bank and Korea Hyoksin Trading Corp., which the United States has branded as proliferators of weapons of mass destruction. Those two firms also have alleged ties to North Korea's missile programs, the department said.
"North Korea's use of a little-known bank, KKBC, to mask the international financial business of sanctioned proliferators demonstrated the lengths to which the regime will go to continue its proliferation activities, said Stuart Levey, the department's undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence.
The department said Tanchon has been using KKBC to transfer funds likely amounting to "millions of dollars." Those transfers also involved arms dealer Korea Mining Development Trading and the movement of money from Burma to China, the department said.
Hyoksin sought to use KKBC "in connection with a purchase of dual-use equipment in 2008," Treasury said. It didn't provide additional details.
The blocking order is the latest move by the United States to keep pressure on Pyongyang, whose nuclear ambitions have ratcheted up global tensions.
North Korea in recent months has made some bold moves with respect to its nuclear ambitions that have touched an international nerve. It conducted a long-range rocket launch in April, quit the six-nation nuclear talks, restarted its nuclear facilities, conducted its second-ever nuclear test, and test-launched a barrage of banned ballistic missiles.
The U.N. Security Council has adopted tough sanctions to punish Pyongyang.
Available at: http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5iwlhL35A2ztIHM3SXt-k0qKVfuMgD9A0RBCO0
3. India Inspects North Korea Ship for Nuclear Material
Sanjib Kumar Roy
(for personal use only)
Indian authorities were inspecting a North Korean ship detained in the Bay of Bengal for nuclear material or fuel, officials said on Monday, the latest sign of the international noose tightening around the North.
A preliminary investigation by a team of nuclear scientists failed to detect any radioactive presence on board the ship carrying a huge sugar consignment, Ashok Chand, a senior police officer in India's Andaman and Nicobar islands, told Reuters.
"There will be more checking today and we will open the hatch to check the entire consignment for any radioactive material," Chand said.
The MV Mu San dropped anchor off Hut Bay island in the Andaman islands on Wednesday without permission and was detained by the coastguard after a more than six-hour chase.
U.N. member states are authorised to inspect North Korean sea, air and land cargo, and seize and destroy any goods transported in violation of a Security Council resolution in June following the North's nuclear tests.
"India is strictly following the rules and has the right to ask ships to be inspected to ensure that they are in compliance with the U.N. resolution," said Uday Bhaskar, Director of the National Maritime Foundation, a New Delhi-based think tank.
North Korean sales of missiles and other weapons materials to tense or unstable parts of the world have long been a major concern of the United States and its allies.
Indian officials said they were trying to find whether the MV Mu San was anywhere near Myanmar, which is suspected to be seeking help from North Korea to build a nuclear reactor.
A former Indian diplomat said New Delhi was wary of a possible North Korea-Myanmar nuclear cooperation and had therefore stepped up security near the Andaman islands, which is close to Myanmar.
"With increasing reports of North Korea helping Myanmar build a nuclear reactor, any vessel floating in Indian waters without a possible reason will be checked and India is rightly concerned," said Naresh Chandra, a former envoy to Washington.
A full interrogation of the 39-member crew can only begin after the arrival of a Korean interpreter later on Monday, officials said.
North Korea, which has walked out of six-party talks aimed at reining in its nuclear weapons programme, fired a barrage of short-range missiles in launch tests in May and exploded a nuclear device on May 25, resulting in tougher U.N. sanctions that it has ignored.
Experts say North Korea are feeling the blows from U.N. sanctions and could face more international pressure.
"North Korea is realising that the eyes of the world are on them and they are feeling the blows from U.N. sanctions," said Lee Sang-hyun, director of the security studies programme at the Sejong Institute think tank, located near Seoul.
"They will have to be careful because this incident shows that they are feeling more pressure from countries around the world," Sang-hyun added.
Available at: http://in.reuters.com/article/worldNews/idINIndia-41652020090810?pageNumber=1&virtualBrandChannel=0
1. Experts Say New Sensing Tools Could Help Ease Concerns on Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty
American Association for the Advancement of Science
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Technological advances in recent years have greatly enhanced prospects for international watchdogs to detect even small covert nuclear tests, according to a study whose findings address one of the U.S. Senate’s concerns from 1999, when it voted against ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty
A global system of sensors that monitor the Earth’s rocky crust, oceans and atmosphere for tell-tale signs of nuclear explosions has moved from prototype systems in the 1990s to nearly full implementation today. System managers, meanwhile, have launched a process to engage independent scientists and engineers on an ongoing basis to help keep the technology and analysis techniques robust and innovative, study leaders told a 13 July gathering sponsored by the AAAS Center for Science, Technology and Security Policy and the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).
The International Scientific Study, the most comprehensive international evaluation of verification capabilities to date, was initiated early last year in part because political interest in the treaty was rising again, Ola Dahlman of Sweden, a seismologist, long-time verification expert, and chairman of the study, told an audience of some 200 at the three-hour luncheon session in the Hart Senate Office Building.
President Barack Obama has expressed support for the treaty and said his administration would pursue ratification "aggressively and immediately."
The treaty seeks to ban all nuclear explosions. Supporters of ratification say that, among other things, by prohibiting testing it would prevent other states from developing increasingly advanced nuclear weapons. At the same time, some say, it would lock in a U.S. advantage that could be maintained without testing. A moratorium on US testing has been in place since 1992, and a Russian moratorium began in 1990.
Treaty opponents argue that verification will be insufficient , that other nations may manage to test without detection, and that in any case some de facto nuclear weapons states will never ratify the treaty. Some critics also view testing as the best way to maintain the credibility of the U.S. nuclear arsenal.
The United States signed the treaty in 1996, but the U.S. Senate declined to ratify it. Though 148 countries have ratified it, the agreement will enter into force only after nine key hold-out nations—including China, Egypt, North Korea, Indonesia, Iran, Israel, Pakistan and India as well as the United States—follow suit.
Dahlman said the new study took a networking approach, similar to that of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which enabled it to engage a large number of scientists quickly. Some 600 researchers from 99 countries including India, Pakistan, Indonesia, Iran and China participated.
The majority "had not had previous experience with the treaty. So they’ve created quite a large network of scientists," said Jenifer Mackby, a Fellow in the CSIS International Security Program.
Dahlman said the biggest surprise at the conference was in the rich harvest of high-quality research posters. While he and his colleagues had hoped for a few dozen or perhaps 100, he said, they received "more than 200 posters from 60 countries and... [with] a fairly even distribution among the different technologies."
The primary verification technologies, most of which have utility for multiple purposes in addition to nuclear monitoring, are: seismology (for detecting events underground and underwater); hydroacoustics (for detecting events underwater); infrasound (for detecting events in the atmosphere); and radionuclide monitoring (which samples the air for radioactive particles and gases released in nuclear events and can provide "smoking gun" evidence that an event was nuclear and not an earthquake, an incoming meteor, a mining explosion, or other natural or human-caused disturbances).
The instruments are dispersed among 228 stations (out of a planned total of 337 facilities) that make up the treaty’s International Monitoring System. They are managed from the headquarters of the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO), based in Vienna, Austria. The study findings were first presented at a conference at the Hofburg Palace in June.
Seismic stations are currently providing data on about a hundred events a day worldwide, almost all of them earthquakes, scientists told the gathering. Depending on the circumstances, the system can detect explosions equivalent to one kiloton of TNT and at certain places possibly even as small as 10 tons, according to some experts at the CSIS/AAAS event. And it can pinpoint the location of an event within a margin of error of about 10 miles.
The speakers noted the dramatic improvement demonstrated after North Korea’s recent activities: In October 2006, 22 seismic stations recorded that country’s nuclear test explosion. In May this year, the number of stations detecting a similar North Korean burst had grown to 61.
The hydroacoustic network, nearing completion, showed its extreme sensitivity in September last year, when about 44 pounds of TNT were detonated off the coast of Japan and the ocean-borne waves were picked up by sensors more than 3,700 miles away off the coast of Chile, reported physicist Jay Zucca, acting program director for nonproliferation at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California.
During a spirited question-and-answer period, audience members asked about the system’s shortcomings, especially the possibility that a would-be cheater could fool the monitors by setting off a device large enough to be militarily significant but too small—and too well-hidden, say, in a subterranean cavern—to be detected. (In the case of North Korea’s latest nuclear test, it was noted, sensors did not detect radioactive gases that often leak from an underground test. However, had the treaty been in effect, an on-site inspection undertaken under treaty auspices would likely have detected such gases.)
"It’s a key question, of course—how good is the system?" Dahlman responded. He cited the system’s demonstrated ability, at least in the Northern Hemisphere, to "see things, with a 90% probability, down to magnitude 3.2 to 3.4." Referring to the assumption that a magnitude 4 disturbance [a light earthquake] equates to a one-kiloton explosion, he added, "this is almost a factor of 10 below that."
Several speakers mentioned that the international monitoring system is also augmented by the assets of individual nations, such as U.S. satellites.
Dahlman suggested turning the question around: "What risks are you prepared to take if you’re going to cheat? Are you going to take 90% [probability] of being detected? Well, probably not. Are you prepared to run a 10% risk? Well, the difference is quite considerable... It’s almost an order of magnitude." He said any such assessment is complicated, and added that in his country, Sweden, for example, "I’m sure we cannot detonate a 10-ton explosion without detection."
Massimo Chiappini, research director of the Italian Institute of Geophysics, said on-site inspections will be crucial to follow-up quickly on ambiguous evidence from remote sensors. Before, during and after a nuclear test, he said, there is a complex skein of adjunct evidence that accumulates at the site. Inspectors might observe such clues as drilling equipment, diagnostic cables, possibly a magnetic field generated by the test and seismic aftershocks, in addition to radioactive particles and gases.
While the speakers cautioned that there is still much to be worked out in this politically contentious realm, further progress is expected with the United States rejoining the discussions after eight years.
The treaty’s premise is that weapons developers must test new designs to prove they work and that prohibiting such tests will curtail advances in weapons technology in existing nuclear states and proliferation of nuclear weapons to new states. As one questioner observed, however, some "new proliferators" are not necessarily trying to hide their activity and therefore might not be deterred by the threat that their tests could be exposed.
"Is the treaty verifiable?" Dahlman asked rhetorically. "That is a decision that has to be taken" at the national level "and based on each state’s security needs." He noted that 148 nations "have answered ‘yes,’ by signing and ratifying the treaty."
"We’re in a pretty different place, from a scientific perspective, from where we were 10 years ago," said Benn Tannenbaum, associate program director of the AAAS Center for Science, Technology and Security Policy. "The question that remains to be answered is a political one, and that is: Is that sufficient?"
Available at: http://www.aaas.org/news/releases/2009/0810testban.shtml?sa_campaign=Internal_Ads/AAAS/RSS_News/2009-08-10/
2. U.S. Aiming to Ratify Nuke Test Ban Treaty by Next Spring: Sources
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The U.S. administration under President Barack Obama, who is calling for a nuclear-free world, is aiming to ratify an international treaty by next spring to ban nuclear tests, U.N. diplomatic sources said Friday.
The United States has told Japan, China, Russia and other countries that it is aiming to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty before the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference scheduled to be held in New York in May next year, the sources said.
The U.S. ratification, if realized, is likely to have ripple effects on China and others that have yet to ratify the treaty, and would be a major step forward toward the treaty's entry into force.
As of August 2009, 181 countries had signed the treaty and 148 had ratified it. But of the 44 states whose ratifications are required for it to enter into force, nine have yet to either sign or ratify it.
The nine are China, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Iran, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan and the United States.
The sources noted that the U.S. ratification would require the approval of a two-thirds majority in the Senate, and that winning over the opposition Republicans, who have shown strong resistance to the treaty, would not be easy.
In May, at a preparatory committee meeting of the 2010 review conference, the U.S. delegation said the country will work toward ratifying the treaty in time for the conference, the sources said. U.S. officials have since reiterated the position at various meetings and have said the schedule for ratification is unchanged.
The United States has drawn criticism as establishing a double standard after the previous administration under George W. Bush signed in October 2008 a nuclear agreement with India, which is not a party to the NPT.
The U.S. officials said the Indian pact was an exception and that the Obama administration would never sign a similar pact, according to the sources.
At a separate U.N. meeting in April, meanwhile, Libya criticized the United States for not giving it adequate reward for abandoning its nuclear development at the urging of the United States and Britain. The United States said it has paid due attention to the country, citing the resumption of diplomatic ties as an example.
The CTBT was approved at a session of the U.N. General Assembly in September 1996. Then President Bill Clinton signed the treaty that year but the Republican-controlled Senate refused to ratify it. The treaty was rejected by the Bush administration.
Obama, whose campaign pledges included ratification of the treaty, has raised hope among those who support the move.
Available at: http://www.breitbart.com/article.php?id=D99UD7NO0&show_article=1
1. UAE's $41 bln Nuclear Pact Awaits Final Nod, Maktoob Business
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A crucial law to establish a nuclear regulator for the United Arab Emirates' $41 billion nuclear power programme is still awaiting the signature of the country's ruler before major work can begin.
"Nothing can happen without the law," David Scott, executive director of economic affairs at the Executive Affairs Authority (EAA), a government agency mandated to provide strategic policy advice on the program, told news agency Zawya Dow Jones in a telephone interview.
No deadline has been set for the law but officials had expected the legislation to be approved in July.
"The UAE will not import nuclear material or begin actual construction of related facilities until that element is firmly in place," he added.
The Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation (FANR) and the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corp (ENEC) are two entities set up to oversee the project require the final signature of President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahyan before significant work can begin on the ground.
"We haven't got any official status on any of that," William Travers, FANR's director general said in reference to the law. "It's quite near, we hope."
ENEC plans to award contracts in the third quarter for the primary construction work on the first reactor. The UAE.'s nuclear program will entail the use of Gen III and Gen III+ light-water reactors, says ENEC.
In total, industry sources estimate the project to cost in the range of $41 billion to over $60 billion, though ENEC declines to comment on cost at this stage.
The UAE. hopes to build three nuclear reactors to generate power to meet a projected rise in electricity demand to more than 40 gigawatts by 2020 from below 19GW at present, according to the ENEC, which is also charged with implementing the program.
The first reactor is scheduled to come onstream by 2017, under the guidance of the International Atomic Energy Agency, and ENEC will be governed by the UAE's independent regulator, the Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation. ENEC envisages the safety-related concrete, the first step of the building process, will be poured in 2012.
According to the Middle East Economic Digest, three groups of contractors are shortlisted for the UAE contract to build the first reactor: a French consortium of Areva, GdF Suez and Total; a Korean group comprising Korea Electric Power Corp (KEP) and Hyundai Engineering and Construction Co; and a third group involving Hitachi (HIT) and General Electric (GE). The companies have declined to comment.
The UK's HSBC has won the advisory mandate for the French consortium, beating French banks BNP Paribas, Calyon - the investment arm of Credit Agricole - and Societe Generale . A group of Japanese and U.S. banks are pitching to the Hitachi-GE consortium.
"Although this wide consultation has resulted in a slight delay in the issuance of the law, the benefits were significant," said the EAA's Scott.
Meanwhile, ENEC says it's selecting technology and operating teams for the project and the FANR has started hiring workers and drafting regulatory guidelines for work to begin.
Available at: http://business.maktoob.com/20090000363930/UAE_s_$41_bln_nuclear_pact_awaits_final_nod_/Article.htm
Jordan Nuclear Regulatory Commission (JNRC) Director General Jamal Sharaf discussed with Economic Consultant at the U.S. Embassy in Amman Natalie Brown prospects of U.S. government support to the commission.
Sharaf told reporters that the meeting touched on nuclear security, training the commission's staff as well as providing it with needed technical assitance.
Sharaf gave a briefing on the commission's plans, mainly those related to enhancing the ability to monitor borders and crackdown on illicit trade in nuclear and radiology material, which is being implemented in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Energy.
Brown expressed her country's readiness to support the commission and establish relations with concerned U.S. Departments.
The JNRC had signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the U.S. to develop a framework for joint cooperation to counter illicit nuclear trade.
Available at: http://www.breitbart.com/article.php?id=upi20090809-200006-4774&show_article=1
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