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Nuclear News - 4/6/2010
PGS Nuclear News, April 6, 2010
Compiled By: Matthew Kapuscinski

A.  U.S.-Russia
    1. Nuke Review Takes Comprehensive Look at Strategy, Jim Garamone, American Forces Press Service  (4/6/2010)
B.  Iran
    1. 'Iran Not to Negotiate Over Nuclear Issue', Tehran Times  (4/6/2010)
    2. US Says Iran Should 'Look in Mirror' on Disarmament, AFP (4/5/2010)
    3. Russia Still Hopes Diplomacy to Solve Iran Standoff, AFP (4/5/2010)
    4. Iran Says Still Ready to Negotiate Nuclear Swap, Reuters (4/5/2010)
    5. Iran Says Legality of Nuclear Plans 'Beyond Any Doubt', PressTV (4/5/2010)
    6. Israel to Use Anti-Iran Strike to Win Chinese Backing, PressTV (4/4/2010)
    7. Iran International Nuclear Disarmament Summit Widely Welcomed, PressTV (4/4/2010)
    8. After China, US Presses UAE to Limit Iran Trade, PressTV (4/3/2010)
    1. Seoul Still Keeping Close Watch on North Korean Leader's Possible Trip to China, Byun Duk-kun, Yonhap News Agency (4/5/2010)
    2. Kim Hosts Chinese Ambassador Amid Trip Reports, Hyung-Jin Kim, Associated Press (4/4/2010)
    3. U.S. Diplomat Expressed Hope for Resumption of North Korea Nuclear Talks, Byun Duk-kun, Yonhap News Agency (4/2/2010)
D.  Pakistan
    1. Pakistan’s Strategic Assets in Safe Hands: NCA, Daily Times (4/6/2010)
E.  Nuclear Cooperation
    1. US Plans Broader Nuclear Arms Talks with Russians, Desmond Butler and Robert Burns, Associated Press (4/5/2010)
    2. U.S.-Russia Arms Deal Ratification May Face Problems - Paper, RIA Novosti (4/5/2010)
    3. Romania Defends Role in US Missile Shield, Nick Thorpe, BBC News (4/3/2010)
F.  Nuclear Energy
    1. U.K. Nuclear Sector: New Reactors, Jobs, UPI (4/5/2010)
    2. UAE's Nuclear Schedule Poses ‘Considerable Challenge’, Says Blix, Loveday Morris, The National (4/4/2010)
G.  Links of Interest
    1. Nuclear Posture Review Report, Department of Defense (4/6/2010)
    2. Court Won't Hear Appeal From Marshall Islanders, Associated Press (4/5/2010)
    3. U.S. Choice of Prague for New Pact Signing Rich in Symbolism, Xinhua News Agency (4/4/2010)
    4. Uranium-Mining Nations Flout UN on Atomic Terror, as Obama Readies Nuclear Security Summit, Charles J. Hanley, Associated Press, Los Angeles Times (4/3/2010)
    5. Iran Nuclear Ring Probed, Peter Fritsch and David Crawford, The Wall Street Journal (4/3/2010)

A.  U.S.-Russia

Nuke Review Takes Comprehensive Look at Strategy
Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
(for personal use only)

The Nuclear Posture Review, released today, is the first overarching look at U.S. nuclear strategy since the end of the Cold War, a senior defense official briefing reporters on background said yesterday.

The review builds on President Barack Obama’s promise to take concrete steps toward the goal of achieving the safety and security of a world free of nuclear weapons, the official said.

A second element, the official added, was to maintain a nuclear deterrent as long as those weapons remain, and ensuring the safety, security and effectiveness of that deterrent while they remain.

The Nuclear Posture Review provides the basis behind many moves in the nuclear arena in the coming months, the official said. Obama will travel to Prague to sign the new strategic arms reduction treaty with Russia on April 8. The treaty mandates further reductions to the U.S. and Russian arsenals, and officials looked to the Nuclear Posture Review guidance as they negotiated the treaty.

The review also will influence U.S. thinking in the nonproliferation treaty, the nuclear security summit and the nonproliferation review conference.

The review is a “concrete, pragmatic work plan for moving forward this agenda,” the official said.

Congress mandated the review, and it is the third since the end of the Cold War. The Clinton administration conducted the first review in 1994, and the Bush administration the second in 2001. The scope of the review is broader than in the past, officials said.

That scope includes the roles of missile defense, conventional strike, force levels, the weapons complex and the role of arms control in shaping U.S. nuclear posture, the senior official said.

Specifically, Congress asked officials to look at seven elements pertaining to the role of nuclear forces in U.S. military strategy, planning and programming. They looked at how the United States would maintain a safe, reliable and credible nuclear deterrence posture, as well as the relationship among U.S. nuclear deterrence policy, targeting strategy and arms control objectives.

Officials also examined the role missile defense and conventional strike capabilities play in determining roles and sizes of nuclear forces. They looked at the levels and composition of nuclear delivery systems and what the nuclear complex required. Finally, officials studied the nuclear stockpile required to implement U.S. strategy.

Senior officials said the current review is Defense Department-led, but has strong interagency participation. Officials worked with international partners, the State Department, the Energy Department and various U.S. government agencies.

The review had intense scrutiny at the highest level of the government.

“It’s shorthand in the nuclear business that nuclear weapons are the president’s weapons,” the official said. Obama has been directly engaged in the process in a deliberative and thoughtful way, he added.

The key objectives of U.S. nuclear policy are to prevent nuclear proliferation and nuclear terrorism, the official said, and the government also wants to reduce the role and numbers of nuclear weapons. An objective, the official added, is to maintain effective deterrence with fewer weapons.

Another objective, he said, is to strengthen regional deterrence and reassurance of U.S. allies and partners. The United States provides a nuclear umbrella for NATO allies, Japan and South Korea, for example, and the review looks at changes in those relationships.

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B.  Iran

'Iran Not to Negotiate Over Nuclear Issue'
Tehran Times
(for personal use only)

Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast says negotiation over the Islamic republic's nuclear issue has lost its ""subjectivity"" and the country is ""only"" ready to talk over fuel supply for Tehran reactor.

In a live interview with Al-Alam Sunday night, Mehmanparast said talks with the West, if any, will be limited to fuel supply for Tehran's research reactor and exclude the Islamic republic's nuclear issue.

""We are always ready for talks on fuel supply or uranium swap, and if they (the West) meet our conditions, we would swap (low enriched uranium) right away. But… we are not ready to negotiate over the Islamic republic's nuclear activities,"" Mehmanparast said.

However, he rejected any uranium swap through a third party and stressed that the swap, if any, ""will be done only on Iranian soil.""

The official reiterated that Iran's nuclear program is under the International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA) supervision and ""negotiations on this regard has basically lost its subjectivity.""

Mehmanparast further criticized the U.S. and its Western allies for attempting to restrict Iran's technological advancement by bringing various pretexts.

""The U.S. and the West use Iran's peaceful nuclear program as a pretext to press the country and their real aim is to confine Iran's progress through nuclear pretexts,"" the Iranian official said.

Mehmanparast further denounced the West's sanction approach towards Iran and said ""if they (U.S. and the West) want to resort to threatening sanctions, issuing resolution and depriving Iranian nation from its right, certainly the approach would be doomed to failure….""

He also urged Iran's right to nuclear technology and pointed out that the Islamic republic was among the first countries to have signed the International Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

The Iranian official also complained over the West's ""dishonesty"" in the case of uranium swap deal and noted that the Western countries wanted to delay the Islamic republic's nuclear program.

Mehmanparast also expressed hope that China, a veto-wielding member of UN Security Council, will not agree with U.S.-pushed new sanctions on the Islamic republic.

However, he admitted that there was too much pressure on China from the West to support new sanctions on Iran.

While U.S. and its Western allies are insisting new sanctions on the Islamic republic, veto-wielding permanent members Russia and China along with several of the rotating members who do not have veto powers express reservations toward a tougher set of sanctions.

They say the issue should be resolved through diplomacy rather than harsh approaches usually adopted by the U.S. in dealing with international issues.

The West accuses Tehran of seeking to develop nuclear weapons, while Iran strongly denies the accusation, saying its nuclear activities are for peaceful purposes.

Tehran says its nuclear program is aimed at making nuclear fuel for civilian purposes, particularly generating electricity for its growing population.

The Islamic republic already suffers from lack of electricity.

Iran further seeks to enrich uranium for a nuclear research reactor in Tehran.

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Iran Says Legality of Nuclear Plans 'Beyond Any Doubt'
(for personal use only)

Iran says the legality of its enrichment activities is “beyond reasonable doubt” as world powers explore ways to apply new sanctions on the country in a matter of weeks.

In a late night interview with Al-Kowsar on Sunday, Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ramin Mehman-Parast expounded on the country's logical and legal reasoning for continuing enrichment work.

Under accusations of “an Iranian objective” to develop nuclear weapons, Mehman-Parast said, a large number of these countries forbid Iran to attain peaceful nuclear technology, while they themselves continue to possess and expand their atomic arsenals.

“These countries are quick to condemn Iran over its enrichment activities, but remain silent over the existence of an arsenal of more than 200 atomic warhead in Israel, which is not a signatory of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and is working to acquire more military nuclear capabilities every day,” said Mehman-Parast.

Referring to an international conference on nuclear disarmament set for April 17 in Tehran, Mehman-Parast said the Iranian government has long called for the elimination of all nuclear arms throughout the globe — a demand that attests to the country's deep aversion for the use of weapons of mass destruction in any circumstance.

Unlike some countries, which claim to be reducing their stockpile of atomic weapons, we have emerged as a forerunner in the global campaign against nuclear armaments, noted the Foreign Ministry spokesman.

Mehman-Parast urged nuclear superpowers to take more effective steps in destroying their atomic arsenals in line with their legal obligations.

Elsewhere in the interview, Mehman-Parast warned that the adoption of sanctions against Iran, as a means to pressure the country into suspending its nuclear program, will yield counterproductive results.

“The language of 'sanctions' as well as attempts to strip countries of their inalienable rights will eventually prove to be ineffective,” said Mehman-Parast.

He urged Western countries to bear in mind that “Iran has allowed unfettered UN access to its nuclear sites, has cooperated closely with the UN nuclear watchdog, and has enriched uranium only under the supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)”.

“They demand that we prove that our uranium enrichment has not diverted into military purposes, while in fact, this is a fact that has been repeatedly verified in the string of reports issued by the IAEA in the past years,” he said.

“We have come to believe that these countries are well aware of the peaceful course of our nuclear program, but nevertheless continue to pressure us [to secure their own interests].”

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Iran Says Still Ready to Negotiate Nuclear Swap
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Iran is still ready to negotiate a solution to its nuclear stand-off with the West, but only on the condition that foreign powers agree to a fuel swap on Iranian territory, the foreign ministry said on Monday.

With Washington seeking support from fellow U.N. Security Council veto holders Russia and China for new sanctions, Iran remains defiant, saying such measures will not stop it developing the nuclear technology it says is for peaceful use.

"We will not withdraw from our (nuclear) rights with threats and pressure, resolutions and sanctions," foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast told Arab language TV Alalam.

At talks last October with Western powers, China and Russia, Iran agreed in principle to send low-enriched uranium abroad for further processing -- addressing concerns it was getting close to developing weapons grade nuclear material.

But soon after those talks it insisted it would, instead, consider swapping its low-enriched uranium stocks directly for more highly enriched uranium, and only within its own borders.

Mehmanparast said that remained the condition for a deal and accused the other parties of reneging on their obligations.

"We told them that you are not honest and it seems like you do not want to provide (us) with the fuel and you are cheating," he said, according to Alalam's website.

"If they meet our conditions we are ready to negotiate about the provision of nuclear fuel for Tehran reactor right away , but we won't negotiate over Iran's nuclear activities," he said.

China, a major client for Iranian oil, has so far declined to publicly back renewed sanctions, despite a direct appeal by U.S. President Barack Obama. Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi called for "flexibility" when he met Iran's nuclear negotiator on Friday.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has dismissed Obama's "extended hand" approach to Iran as empty rhetoric, will "announce a new nuclear achievement" on Friday, the head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, Ali Akbar Salehi, told ISNA news agency. He gave no details.

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Russia Still Hopes Diplomacy to Solve Iran Standoff
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Russia still hopes for a diplomatic solution to the standoff over Iran's nuclear programme, a deputy foreign minister said Monday, as the West steps up pressure for new sanctions against Tehran.

"We still have not lost hope for a solution to the Iranian nuclear problem through dialogue with Iran," Sergei Ryabkov, Russia's pointman on Iran nuclear talks, told the Interfax news agency.

He insisted concerns that Iran was working to develop an atomic bomb had not yet reached a critical threshold after which Russia would turn to new sanctions to force a change in the Islamic republic's stance.

"Nothing is happening today which would give grounds to talk of a 'new page' or a 'new chapter'. Normal discussions are going on, as they have always been and will be," he was quoted as saying.

The five permanent UN Security Council members -- Russia, Britain, China, France and the United States -- plus Germany have been involved in talks with Iran for months to try to end the nuclear standoff.

Moscow, which has close diplomatic and trade relations with Tehran, has been reluctant to agree to new sanctions but has taken a harder line on Iran in recent weeks.

Russia has also said it will go ahead with the launch of Tehran's first nuclear power station, which it has helped build in the southern city of Bushehr since the mid-1990s, despite concerns over Iran's nuclear activities.

The United States and its allies suspect Iran is secretly trying to develop the atomic bomb, but Tehran says its nuclear drive is purely for civilian energy purposes, and that it has the right to nuclear technology.

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US Says Iran Should 'Look in Mirror' on Disarmament
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The United States on Monday dismissed Iran's plans to hold a nuclear disarmament conference, saying it needed only to "look in the mirror" if it was serious about the issue.

Iran announced Sunday it would hold a disarmament conference days after next week's nuclear security summit in Washington and said China, which has resisted new sanctions against the Islamic regime, would attend.

"If Iran is interested in strengthening the non-proliferation regime, it can start by looking in the mirror," State Department spokesman Philip Crowley told reporters.

"There are specific actions that Iran needs to take and has failed to take which have brought us to the point where we need to evaluate potential sanctions," Crowley said.

"If Iran really has an earnest interest in preventing the spread of nuclear weapons, it can start by reassuring the international community about its intentions."

Iran has been under mounting global pressure to abandon its nuclear program, with Western powers fearing it wants to build an atomic bomb. Tehran says the program is peaceful and only meant to produce energy.

Iran said it would hold the conference called "Nuclear Energy For All, Nuclear Weapons For No-one" on April 17-18.

It would follow the April 12-13 nuclear summit in Washington to which US President Barack Obama has invited leaders of most of the world's major powers.

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Iran International Nuclear Disarmament Summit Widely Welcomed
(for personal use only)

Iran's Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast says Tehran's international conference on nuclear disarmament has been widely welcomed.

According to Mehmanparast, the conference dubbed "Nuclear energy for all, nuclear weapons for none,” will be held in Tehran on April 17th and 18th.

"Officials from various countries, international organizations, and non-governmental organizations have been invited to attend the conference," the Iranian spokesperson added.

Iran's Ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Ali Asghar Soltanieh said that senior officials form the IAEA and the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization will also attend the disarmament summit.

"The conference has been widely welcomed by all countries," he went on to say.

Mehmanparast further pointed out that all the countries in the world have the right to use peaceful nuclear energy.

"We believe the world must be free from nuclear weapons," he asserted.

Earlier, Mehmanparast had urged the countries which possess nuclear weapons to destroy their atomic armaments.

"We insist that all countries must be committed to nuclear disarmament," he said early February.

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Israel to Use Anti-Iran Strike to Win Chinese Backing
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The Israeli regime plans to send its top military strategist to China this week to convince Beijing to back sanctions against Tehran over its nuclear program.

Head of Tel Aviv army's planning directorate Major General Amir Eshel intends to serve Beijing with 'renewed' threats of military strikes against Iran, wishing to persuade China to follow along with the US-led push at the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to impose a fourth round of sanctions against Iran, British weekly newspaper The Sunday Times reported today.

According to the weekly, a subsidiary of the multi-national press conglomerate The News Corporation owned by Jewish media mogul Rupert Murdoch, Eshel will warn officials in Beijing that an Israeli military attack on Iran could disrupt oil supplies to China and its rapidly growing economy.

Tehran has repeatedly dismissed Israeli threats of military strikes against Iran as psychological warfare aimed at pressuring the Islamic Republic to abandon its peaceful nuclear work while insisting that any efforts to materialize such threats will encounter a 'painful' response.

The Israeli regime and its Western backers have repeatedly accused Iran of pursuing a nuclear weapon capability under the guise of a civilian nuclear program.

Iran, however, has fiercely dismissed such claims as mere attempts by Western nuclear powers to prevent Iran's rapid advances in the field of nuclear technology.

Aggressive Israeli efforts against Iran's nuclear program come despite widespread reports of its possession of over 200 nuclear warheads that was acquired with blessings from Tel Aviv's Western sponsors. Israel has refused to sign or commit to any international atomic regulatory treaties.

Meanwhile, as a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), Iran has opened its nuclear facilities to intrusive inspections and round-the-clock supervision by the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Moreover, Iran has also called for an international abandonment of all nuclear weapon arsenals and development efforts, which has been ignored by all countries possessing nuclear weapons.

IAEA has repeatedly reported that it has found no evidence of any diversion of nuclear materials from civilian to military applications in Iran.

That, however, has not stopped Washington from seeking to impose a fourth round of sanctions against Tehran through the UNSC.

Tehran insists that the sanctions are illegal as they aim to deny the Islamic Republic the legitimate right to full nuclear fuel cycle for civilian use, in contradiction to NPT regulations.

China, a veto-wielding member of the UNSC, has so far resisted US pressure to toughen embargoes against Tehran, insisting on continued dialogue as the appropriate channel to resolve nuclear concerns about Iran.

However, Israeli and its American sponsor have recently stepped up efforts to pressure China to fall in line with the sanctions drive.

The US and Israel have been collaborating closely in recent months to intensify efforts to muster support for new sanctions against the Islamic Republic. These efforts have included using press reports and allied countries to generate a high level of urgency on the issue.

For instance, US tried to get Saudi Arabia to intervene on the matter by enticing China with attractive oil deals in order to drive a wedge between Beijing and Tehran, prompting Chinese consent to the US-led sanctions efforts.

Meanwhile, press reports spread rumors last month that the Saudis have given the Israeli regime the permission to use their air space for any attack on Iran's nuclear facilities, a claim denied by Riyadh.

Iranian officials have scorned US claims that their sanctions drive enjoys international backing, arguing that Europe and the Israeli regime do not constitute a global representation.

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After China, US Presses UAE to Limit Iran Trade
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While continuing to pressure Russia and China to follow its lead in imposing a new round of sanctions against Iran, the US tries to cajole Dubai into limiting its trade relations with Tehran.

Over the past few months, the Obama Administration has made systematic efforts to woo Dubai to toe Washington's anti-Iran line and persuade the business-savvy Muslim Emiratis into restricting their centuries-old trade with Iran.

To that end, high-ranking US officials have regularly flown over to Dubai in recent months and have held private meetings with high-ranking officials of the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Stuart Levey, the US Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, told The Times on Friday that he has so far flown to Dubai about 12 times in a bid to warn UAE officials of the consequences of their strong economic relations with Iranians.

"The UAE is really grappling with the issue," Levy claimed. "The Emirates are aware of the reputational risks with dealing with Iran, and they take those risks seriously."

"To the extent that normal consumer goods are getting into Iran, that does not undermine the overall policy," Levy explained.

In an effort to harm Iran's economy since a popular revolution deposed the pro-US dictatorship of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the US has not only imposed unilateral sanctions against Iran, but it has sought to browbeat other states to follow suit, mostly to no avail. In the case of UAE, despite US pressure, the volume of trade between Iran and UAE has risen greatly over the past few years.

Dubai, which is reportedly home to around 500,000 Iranians, is widely considered to be one of Iran's largest trading partners in the region.

Embassy officials in Abu Dhabi estimate that trade between Iran and Dubai topped $15 billion (55.09 billion UAE dirhams) in 2009.

While Levy made his latest comments, Esfandiar Rahim-Mashaei, the head of Iran's Presidential Office, was visiting the UAE, according to the official Iranian IRNA news agency.

Rahim-Mashaei called for the further expansion of Iran-UAE trade ties, stressing that “both countries have a lot to offer as key players in the region's economy.”

UAE Prime Minister Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, for his part, said both Iran and the Emirates have mutual interest in trade and should thus work closer to promote cooperation in different levels.

Rahim-Mashaei made the remarks while offering the Iranian people's deep condolences to UAE President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan on the death of his brother Sheikh Ahmed bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

The late Sheikh Ahmed who headed the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority - the largest sovereign wealth fund in the world - was killed in an apparent aviation incident on March 26. The full circumstances of his death have yet to be established.

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Seoul Still Keeping Close Watch on North Korean Leader's Possible Trip to China
Byun Duk-kun
Yonhap News Agency
(for personal use only)

South Korea continues to closely watch North Korean leader Kim Jong-il's movement as signs still point to his imminent trip to China, a spokesman for Seoul's foreign ministry said Monday.

"There is circumstantial evidence (of Kim's imminent trip to China)," ministry spokesman Kim Young-sun told a press briefing.

"(The government) is closely following the possibility," he added.

Last week, South Korea's presidential office Cheong Wa Dae had said Kim appears ready to make the trip which Seoul and its allies hope will result in North Korea returning to the six-nation nuclear talks stalled since December 2008.

China is the host of the talks also attended by the U.S., Japan and Russia.

Some had expected him to travel last weekend, but the North's official media placed him in the country, breaking its usual practice by revealing the specific date of his public appearance in an apparent attempt to discredit reports of him having left for China.

An official privy to North Korea-China relations said the two sides may have already finished preparing for Kim's trip and that they are only waiting for the right time.

"We believe all the preparations have been completed, but they appear to be still waiting for the right timing," the official said without elaborating, asking not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the issue.

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Kim Hosts Chinese Ambassador Amid Trip Reports
Hyung-Jin Kim
Associated Press
(for personal use only)

North Korea's Kim Jong Il hosted a weekend dinner in Pyongyang for the new Chinese ambassador, state media reported Sunday, indicating the reclusive communist leader has not embarked on a much-speculated trip to Beijing.

Kim's potential visit is a focus of intense attention because it could mean North Korea's return to dormant China-hosted international disarmament talks on its nuclear weapons program.

On Sunday, the North's official Korean Central News Agency reported Kim attended a banquet on Saturday evening for new Chinese Ambassador to Pyongyang, Liu Hongcai, with his top deputies.

"All the participants warmly welcomed (Kim) with highest tribute as he has made an undying contribution to boosting" bilateral ties, the dispatch said.

China's Xinhua News Agency carried a similar report.

Media speculation on Kim's possible visit to China intensified after South Korea's presidential office said Wednesday there was a high possibility a visit was in the works.

South Korea's Yonhap news agency had reported that a special train arrived early Saturday in the Chinese city of Dandong and quoted an anonymous South Korean government official as saying the train might be carrying Kim or could be an advance train preceding a trip. Yonhap later reported the train carried cargo.

The reclusive Kim rarely travels abroad and only under tight security. He last visited China in January 2006 but Chinese President Hu Jintao has recently invited him to visit again.

As the North's key ally and biggest aid provider, China is widely seen as the country with the most clout with Pyongyang.

Yonhap said last week that China would offer economic assistance to North Korea during Kim's trip, and Pyongyang would in return make a promise to return to the six-party nuclear talks involving the two Koreas, China, the U.S., Russia and Japan. North Korea quit the forum last year and conducted a second underground nuclear test, resulting in tighter U.N. sanctions.

Speculation of a Kim trip in early April has been partially fueled by diplomatic and legislative calendars in China and North Korea.

Chinese President Hu Jintao is to visit the United States for a nuclear security summit April 12-13. North Korea's rubber stamp parliament, meanwhile, is expected to convene April 9.

Kim, who suffered a reported stroke in 2008, turned 68 in February amid questions over his health and the future of the impoverished, nuclear-armed nation.

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U.S. Diplomat Expressed Hope for Resumption of North Korea Nuclear Talks
Byun Duk-kun
Yonhap News Agency
(for personal use only)

A senior U.S. diplomat on Friday called reports of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il preparing to visit China soon "speculation at this juncture," but expressed hope that any such trip, if realized, would lead to the resumption of international talks on Pyongyang's nuclear ambitions.

Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell arrived in Seoul earlier Friday amid widespread reports that the North's reclusive leader Kim is highly likely to visit China in the near future, a move that could lead to the resumption of the nuclear talks.

Campbell called those reports a "speculation at this juncture," but expressed hope that such a trip, if realized, would lead to the reopening of the nuclear talks that also involve South Korea, the U.S., Japan, China and Russia.

"We have had some discussions with our counterparts here and we will obviously be following those events closely. We are closely in touch with China. We have asked them to assist us in efforts to encourage strongly North Korea to return expeditiously to the six-party talks," said the U.S. official.

North Korea has demanded the removal of U.N. sanctions imposed on it for its nuclear test last year and the start of talks on a peace treaty to replace the truce that ended the 1950-53 Korean War as conditions for its return to the negotiating table.

"I will say that the United States and its allies have a strong desire to maintain the existing sanction regime 1874 until steps are taken on the part of the North Koreans to fulfill its (denuclearization) commitments made in 2005 and 2007," Campbell told reporters here after his meeting with Seoul's chief nuclear negotiator, Wi Sung-lac.

The North has been staying away from the six-way nuclear negotiations since late 2008.

Campbell also offered sympathy over the tragic sinking of a South Korean warship last week that left 46 South Korean servicemembers missing.

"We were able to offer our deep sympathies and prayers and our well-wishes for the tragic sinking of the Korean warship. Obviously, the United States government has offered support. We will do everything possible operationally to support our Korean friends during this difficult time," he told reporters.

The U.S. diplomat said the U.S. will also provide all necessary support to help determine the exact cause of the tragic accident, but stressed it is still to early to speculate on any North Korean involvement.

"I just want you to know the United States has complete confidence in the South Korean government to conduct this investigation and we will stand behind them completely in this effort," he said.

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D.  Pakistan

Pakistan’s Strategic Assets in Safe Hands: NCA
Daily Times
(for personal use only)

The 17th meeting of the National Command Authority (NCA) on Monday expressed full confidence in the arrangements for custodial controls as well as the safety and security of Pakistan’s strategic assets, and the effectiveness of Pakistan’s strategic deterrence.

The meeting chaired by Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani reviewed in detail, the policies and measures in place for the safety and security of nuclear materials and facilities, said a press release issued by the Inter-Service Public Relations.

The NCA reiterated that, as a nuclear-armed state with advanced nuclear technology and expertise, Pakistan was fully cognisant of its responsibilities. The nuclear safety, security and non-proliferation measures put in place by Pakistan were supported by extensive legislative, regulatory and administrative framework.

While expressing confidence in the indigenous know-how and technology to sustain national nuclear safety and security systems, the NCA said, Pakistan would continue to benefit from the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) relevant programmes on nuclear security.

The NCA took note of the fact that Pakistan’s socio-economic development was dependent on its ability to meet rapidly expanding energy requirements. There was a need to explore all options to ensure a reliable energy mix. Civil nuclear power generation was therefore an essential part of the national energy security strategy.

Having a vast experience of operating nuclear power plants, highly trained manpower and a well-established safety and security culture, Pakistan fully qualifies for equal participation in civil nuclear cooperation at the international level, it was revealed in the meeting.

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E.  Nuclear Cooperation

U.S.-Russia Arms Deal Ratification May Face Problems - Paper
RIA Novosti
(for personal use only)

The new Russian-U.S. arms reduction pact, to be signed on April 8 in Prague, will face problems on its way to ratification, Russian daily Kommersant said on Monday.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and U.S. President Barack Obama will sign the pact on Thursday in Prague to replace the START 1 treaty, which expired on December 5. The new treaty is broadly viewed as an important part of efforts by Medvedev and Obama to "reset" thorny relations between the two countries.

"Indeed, we would like the ratification [of the new pact] to be synchronized. But we should also take into account the traditional difference in the political calendars of Russian and U.S. lawmakers. So there may not be a complete synchronization," Kommersant quoted Medvedev's chief foreign policy aide Sergei Prikhodko as saying.

Kommersant said since Medvedev has personally taken part in drafting the long-awaited treaty, the ratification in the Russian parliament controlled by the pro-Kremlin party, does not give any reasons for concern.

But the U.S. Senate is likely to create several impediments for the ratification, Russian experts said. A total of 67 votes are needed to ratify the arms pact in the 100-seat Senate, and Obama will need the support of at least eight Republicans to push the bill through.

"Under the circumstances, it would be hard to get eight extra votes at once," Sergei Rogov, the head of Russia's main foreign policy think tank, the U.S. and Canada Institute, told Kommersant.

The additional risk factor for the new pact is the upcoming mid-term Congressional elections in November in which the Republicans may grab extra seats from the Democrats. They say Obama may have to look for an extra 15-20 votes if the ratification was held after the polls.

The second obstacle for the treaty is senators' personal interests in hindering the pact. Many of their voters are involved in producing or operating arms threatened by the treaty and backing the arms cuts pact could hit the senators' popularity.

In a sign of the looming problem, a group of U.S. military sector experts sent a letter of protest to the White House last year. Anti-START groups were founded by senators from states producing strategic bombers and submarines.

"President Obama demonstrated good fighting skills while passing his healthcare reform bill through Congress. We assume he will be as persistent in pushing through the START treaty," Kommersant quoted a Russian Presidential administration official as saying.

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US Plans Broader Nuclear Arms Talks with Russians
Desmond Butler and Robert Burns
Associated Press
(for personal use only)

The Obama administration is poised to adopt a new policy potentially restricting the nation's use of nuclear arms, U.S. officials said, and hopes to persuade Russia to agree to mutual cuts in nuclear arsenals that go beyond the arms treaty both sides will sign this week.

A policy review, expected to be released Tuesday, is likely to include language reducing U.S. reliance on nuclear weapons for its national defense. That reflects President Barack Obama's pledge to move toward a nuclear free world, and could strengthen U.S. arguments that other countries should either reduce stockpiles of nuclear weapons or forego developing them.

The White House also planned to urge Russia to adopt first-ever limits on shorter-range, less powerful nuclear weapons, an arena in which Russia holds an advantage, said officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because the policy review has not been released.

These officials said the administration's new policy would stop short of renouncing the use of nuclear weapons except in retaliation to atomic attack, as some activists have advocated. But it would describe the weapons' purpose as "primarily" or "fundamentally" to deter or respond to a nuclear attack.

Officials said the document was expected to move toward a policy that says the "sole purpose" of nuclear weapons is to deter or respond to nuclear attack. That wording would rule out the use of such weapons to respond to an attack by conventional, biological or chemical weapons. Previous U.S. policy was more ambiguous.

The Obama administration plans to urge Russia to return to the bargaining table following Senate ratification of the new START arms reduction treaty, to be signed by Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in Prague on Thursday.

The White House hopes to overcome Russia's expressed reluctance to move beyond START, especially if it means cutting Moscow's arsenal of tactical, or short-range nuclear arms.

These so-called theater nuclear weapons play a key role in Russia's overall defense strategy and are regarded in Moscow as an important bargaining chip on security issues.

The timing of a planned U.S. push for new, broader arms talks with Russia is uncertain. But officials said the proposal would only come after U.S. and Russian legislative approval of the new START pact, which isn't expected until the end of this year.

The Russian parliament is almost certain to sign off on any deal negotiated by the Kremlin, but the U.S. Senate's ratification of the new START treaty is far from a sure thing.

Obama is hosting dozens of world leaders in a nuclear security summit in Washington next week.

One senior administration official said that the U.S. wants another round of talks between the White House and the Kremlin that would include so-called "non-deployed" nuclear weapons — the thousands of warheads on both sides that are held in reserve and not ready for immediate use.

George Perkovich, a nuclear weapons expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said the Russians have a strong incentive to limit reserve weaponry because the U.S. could quickly mount its stored warheads back onto missiles.

Russia's struggling military forces would have a harder time preparing their reserve warheads for use in the event of war.

U.S. officials believe that talks on reducing stockpiled warheads could persuade Russia to negotiate limits on short-range weapons — a category of arms in which the Russians hold a large numerical advantage.

But the call for expanded talks is also linked to a nearer-term goal: constraining the spread of nuclear weapons technology and keeping nuclear weapons out of the hands of terrorists.

Reducing the short range bombs and stored warheads would involve more intrusive inspections than agreed in the treaty Obama and Medvedev will sign this week. But officials say that new technologies for verifying and counting warheads could ease concerns on both sides about protecting the secrecy of their weapons designs.

These technologies allow inspectors to verify narrow characteristics of warheads without revealing details of their structure.

Another potential obstacle to expanding the next set of nuclear arms talks is Russia's strong resistance to U.S. missile defense in Europe.

Moscow sought to include constraints on missile defense in the new START, but U.S. officials say the agreement contains no such limits. The treaty text has not been made public.

Overall, when it comes to further cuts in nuclear arsenals, the Obama administration could face an uphill struggle in any effort to bring Russia back to the bargaining table.

"The Russians seem less than enthusiastic about moving ahead with this," said Joseph Cirincione, president of the Ploughshares Fund, a foundation that advocates for a nuclear weapon-free world.

Ellen Tauscher, the under secretary of state for arms control, told reporters March 29 that the administration has a "big agenda" for the next set of nuclear arms talks, and that it includes limiting short-range weapons.

The U.S. has an estimated 200 short-range nuclear weapons in Europe under a NATO agreement, whereas the Russians are believed to have 10 times that many deployed in European Russia.

These weapons are a legacy of the Cold War standoff in divided Europe, and there is now a growing push by Europeans to negotiate away these weapons.

Russia, on the other hand, sees tactical nuclear warheads as a counterweight to the military superiority of NATO.

In its just-completed reassessment of U.S. nuclear weapons policy — known as the Nuclear Posture Review_ the administration chose not to commit to reducing its nuclear weapons in Europe. The thinking was that it should be addressed in negotiations with the Russians, several officials said.

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Romania Defends Role in US Missile Shield
Nick Thorpe
BBC News
(for personal use only)

When George W Bush was US president, his missile defence plan proposed interceptor missiles in Poland, coupled with a new radar in the Czech Republic.

President Barack Obama won rare praise from Moscow for scrapping that plan, which the Russians suspected was aimed against them.

But the thaw did not last long. Last September, Washington announced what it called the Phased Adaptive Approach (PAA) to missile defence.

This new system would start by stationing missile defence assets in south-east Europe, and slowly spread its web to the centre and finally the north.

The US defence department, in its Ballistic Missile Defense Review, reckons the ballistic missile threat "is increasing both quantitatively and qualitatively, and is likely to continue to do so over the next decade".

It points particularly to missile programmes in North Korea and Iran.

Russian fears

As part of the PAA, Romania has announced that it will accept up to 24 land-based interceptor missiles. Talks with the US on the details will begin soon.

And the Bulgarian government has offered to play host to the radar component which complements the missiles.

Russia has again expressed concern, and missile defence is one of the points of contention that held up Russian-US talks to replace the 1991 Start arms control treaty - before the two sides said they had agreed a new deal late last month.

But Romania insists the deal will make the region more secure. Bogdan Aurescu, the chief Romanian negotiator in the coming talks with the US on the details of Romanian participation, says it will lead to "increased security for Romania, and more security for the Black Sea region as a whole, not only for Romania and its allies".

Regarding Russian concerns, he says: "We also have to focus our efforts and energy to avoid suspicion between us, and to clarify our intentions.

"That's why a process of transparent consultation and discussion is always needed."

The introduction of the interceptors and radar clearly represents a shift in the balance of power in south-east Europe, following 2008's Russia-Georgia conflict, and Ukraine's new president's offer to extend Russia's lease on its naval base at Sevastopol in the Crimea.

"The Black Sea region... will be a very interesting hub, in terms of the arms race and everything we can can see developing on the eastern border of Nato," says Radu Tudor, a defence analyst in Bucharest.

Little opposition

Romania says there are several differences between the new US plan and the earlier, Czech-Polish version.

It will cover a wider area, it will be ready earlier - in 2015 for the south-east European segment - and the SM-3 missiles can incorporate new technology, as it is developed.

No sites have yet been decided, but two almost certainly under consideration are the Mihail Kogalniceanu airbase near the Black Sea coast, and a military airfield near Cluj in Transylvania.

The Romanian authorities expect little public opposition.

All major parties in the Romanian parliament support it, and the plan has already sailed through its first committee hearing in the Senate.

Some politicians hope it will also help extract a long-standing thorn in Romanian-US relations - the tough visa regime Romanian visitors to the US still face.

"We don't see that it's correct or fair towards Romanian citizens," says Titus Corlatean, head of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Senate, "considering some European countries that do not contribute to the same extent as Romania to the American and international effort, already enjoy a visa waiver system".

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F.  Nuclear Energy

U.K. Nuclear Sector: New Reactors, Jobs
(for personal use only)

The U.K. nuclear industry is being launched, with Germany's Eon and RWE unveiling plans for their first two plants, and France's EDF announcing the hiring of 10,000 new staff to back up its British expansion.

Horizon Nuclear Power, a joint venture formed by Eon and RWE, said it plans to start building a first plant in Wylfa, Wales in 2012. Construction of the second plant, to be located next to the existing Oldbury-on-Severn reactor in South Gloucestershire, will start by 2019, Britain's Daily Telegraph newspaper reports. Horizon will invest an estimated $23 billion in both sites, the paper said.

The announcement came after a similar one by French state-owned nuclear giant Electricite de France.

EDF, which runs 58 nuclear power plants in France that satisfy around 80 percent of the French electricity demand, recently said it would build four nuclear power plants in Britain, with each expected to cost between $7 billion and $8 billion.

Two sites have already been identified: One plant will be built in Somerset, western England, to enter service in 2017; the second one, at Sizewell on the eastern English coast, is due to go online by 2020.

The new plant to be built in Wales by Germany's Horizon Nuclear Power is due to go online by 2020. It replaces an existing reactor that is due to be shut down later this year.

Because the existing plant has provided hundreds of jobs, the new one is being welcomed.

"There is overwhelming support. I would say 90 percent to 95 percent of people in Anglesey support a new nuclear station," Trefor Lloyd-Hughes, a local politician, told The Times of London. "It's going to create a massive economic push and create work while it is being built and for years to come."

The new plant could create up to 1,000 permanent jobs and support up to 3,000 during the construction phase, the newspaper writes.

EDF is also creating new jobs: The French company will hire up to 10,000 scientists, engineers and technicians to support its construction project, The Independent newspaper reports. It writes that EDF has already hired 100 designers and engineers to for its London office.

Most of Britain's aging nuclear power plants will be decommissioned by 2023. In a bid to increase energy security and ensure carbon dioxide-free power generation to combat climate change, London in 2008 decided to encourage the construction of new reactors.

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UAE's Nuclear Schedule Poses ‘Considerable Challenge’, Says Blix
Loveday Morris
The National
(for personal use only)

The speed at which the UAE intends to have a nuclear reactor up and running presents a “considerable challenge”, according to Hans Blix, the head of the programme’s International Advisory Board.

The Emirates would have to work hard to expand its regulatory institutions and develop the required workforce to keep pace with its plans, which are spread over a “very short time” by international standards, said Mr Blix, who headed the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) for 16 years. The time constraints will be discussed in the advisory board’s first report, which will be released this month.

“There are many challenges. Certainly, one challenge is the speed at which it is going forward,” said Mr Blix in his first interview since taking up the post.

“The technological challenge of building four nuclear power plants is considerable and doing it in such a short space of time is even more of a challenge, but they fortunately are working with a country that has a lot of experience.”

In December, South Korea beat France and a US-Japanese consortium to win a US$20.4 billion (Dh75bn) master contract to build the UAE’s first four nuclear reactors, which are all scheduled to be up and running between 2017 and 2020.

Since the UAE’s Dh150bn atomic energy programme was announced in April 2008, plans have proceeded at an almost unprecedented speed.

The Government probably chose the South Korean reactors as they were a tried-and-tested design and therefore less likely to come across hitches and cause delays, Mr Blix said.

“According to the plans that we have seen, we’ve raised no objection to the time frame but there are many problems that could occur, of course,” he said.

The advisory board is responsible for overseeing all aspects of the nuclear programme, from safety and security, to technical issues and workforce development.
It will issue regular reports highlighting any areas for improvement. The focus of the first report was likely to be training and the development of human capital, Mr Blix said.

The Government has said it needs 2,300 nuclear personnel by 2020, and is hoping that Emiratis will eventually make up 60 per cent of that workforce.

“They’ve seen themselves that this is going to be a challenge and they’ve already started to address it,” Mr Blix said. “The capacity building is a very important part of it. Evidently there will be a lot of expatriates in the early phases but the long-term plans must clearly be for Emiratisation.”

A deal has been made with a South Korean university to train Emirati students.
The nine-member advisory board that Mr Blix heads is made up of nuclear experts from around the world. Many of those have technical expertise, such as Takuya Hattori, the president of Japan Atomic Industrial Forum, who has overseen the construction of 17 power plants, and KunMo Chung, twice the minister of science and technology in South Korea. Mr Blix is a non-proliferation expert.

The advisory board first met on February 22, when it was briefed by the Critical National Infrastructure Authority, the Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation (FANR) and the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation. “We had a good impression in all the briefings we had,” Mr Blix said. “They are rapidly coming up to speed.”

The next round of meetings will come in October, when Mr Blix expects site selection, and the readiness of the FANR to deal with all licensing enquiries, will dominate discussions.

The regulatory body, which has a staff of about 70, had a “tremendous” amount of work ahead, and was expected to at least double in size over the next few years, he added.

The UAE’s programme has been held up as an example for regional nations that wish to embark on peaceful nuclear energy programmes.

From the beginning, Abu Dhabi agreed that enrichment and reprocessing for its nuclear programme would be done outside the country. Mr Blix said it was a “political decision” that facilitates the UAE’s co-operation with the United States.

“It’s not economically meaningful for them anyway as it’s simply cheaper to buy the fuel on the international market,” he said. “It’s not that Abu Dhabi deprives itself of something that is valuable.”

Mr Blix, who headed the UN team tasked with finding proof of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, said the UAE’s open approach was in stark contrast to Iran’s policy of secrecy, and would pave the way for other Gulf nations.

“They have been absolutely clear from the beginning on transparency and non-proliferation, and the establishment of this International Advisory Board is designed to show the openness,” Mr Blix said.

“It’s an enlightened and very progressive line they are taking.”

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G.  Links of Interest

Nuclear Posture Review Report
Department of Defense
(for personal use only)

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Court Won't Hear Appeal From Marshall Islanders
Associated Press
(for personal use only)

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U.S. Choice of Prague for New Pact Signing Rich in Symbolism
Xinhua News Agency
(for personal use only)

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Iran Nuclear Ring Probed
Peter Fritsch and David Crawford
The Wall Street Journal
(for personal use only)

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Uranium-Mining Nations Flout UN on Atomic Terror, as Obama Readies Nuclear Security Summit
Charles J. Hanley, Associated Press
Los Angeles Times
(for personal use only)

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