November 21, 2017

If America Topples North Korea and Iran, What Happens Next?

George Perkovich

On October 19, National Security Advisor H. R. McMaster declared that President Donald Trump was not going to accept the North Korean regime threatening the United States with a nuclear weapon. “He just won’t accept it,” McMaster reported. “There are those who have said, ‘What about accept and deter?’ Well, accept and deter is unacceptable.” McMaster was speaking at a conference organized by the Foundation for the Defense for Democracies—a small but influential Washington think tank. Its leaders advocated the invasion of Iraq in 2003 and now provide intellectual fuel for McMaster, CIA Director Mike Pompeo, and others, such as the Wall Street Journal editorial board, which called for “The Regime Change Solution in Korea.”

Nuclear Stability, Conventional Instability: North Korea and the Lessons From Pakistan

Vipin Narang and Ankit Panda

Earlier this month, an anonymous senior U.S. administration official offered an explanation for why North Korea pursued nuclear weapons. “North Korea’s goal is not to simply acquire these horrific weapons to maintain the status quo in the Peninsula,” the official noted. “[I]t is seeking these weapons in order to fundamentally change that status quo. Its primary goal, as stated … is to reunify [with] South Korea. These weapons are part of the plan to reunify with South Korea.”

Approaches for Managing the Costs of U.S. Nuclear Forces, 2017 to 2046

Congressional Budget Office

The Obama Administration’s 2017 plans for nuclear forces would cost about $1.2 trillion (in 2017 dollars) over the 2017–2046 period, CBO estimates. About $400 billion of that total would pay for modernization, according to CBO’s assessment of the most recent detailed plans for the Departments of Defense and Energy. This presentation analyzes options that would reduce the 30-year costs of nuclear forces by between 2 percent and 11 percent if they were implemented for the next generation of systems (and more if they were implemented now). Those options would affect the capability of nuclear forces in different ways.

Trump Puts North Korea Back on State Sponsors of Terrorism List to Escalate Pressure Over Nuclear Weapons

David Nakamura | Washington Post

President Trump on Monday announced that his administration has redesignated North Korea as a state sponsor of terror, a move aimed at increasing pressure on Pyongyang nearly a decade after the George W. Bush administration removed the rogue nation from the list. Trump made his decision public during a brief photo op at a Cabinet meeting, calling it “a very critical step” that “should've happened a long time ago.” The president cited assassinations by the dictator Kim Jong Un's regime carried out on foreign soil, as well as the treatment of American college student Otto Warmbier, who died in June days after he was released in a coma by the North after spending 17 months in captivity.

What if the General Says 'No' to President's Nuclear Order?

Robert Burns | ABC News

James Acton, co-director of the nuclear policy program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, saw politics at play. "But I think it's a genuinely important subject, and I think it's one we should be debating irrespective of who the president is," he said. Acton said a president rightly has unchecked authority to use nuclear weapons in response to an actual or imminent nuclear attack. In his view, the president should otherwise be required to consult in advance with the secretaries of state and defense, and the attorney general, and get approval from two of the three before acting.

With Technology, These Researchers Are Figuring Out North Korea’s Nuclear Secrets

Anna Fifield | Washington Post

There were reports going around last month that North Korea had tested another solid-fuel missile engine, a type of engine that can be deployed much faster than the older liquid-fueled ones. Kim Jong Un’s media outlets hadn’t bragged about it — as they had done previously — so the experts at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies’ nonproliferation center got to work.