October 08, 2019

U.S.-DPRK Nuclear Path After Stockholm

Toby Dalton | Kyodo News

The United States and North Korean negotiators met over the weekend in Stockholm, but could not bridge the gulf in ideas about the future of Pyongyang's nuclear arsenal and the benefits Pyongyang should gain from relinquishing it. The North Korean press release after the talks succinctly captures the problem: “It is not likely at all that (the United States) can produce a proposal commensurate with the expectations of the DPRK.” North Korean leader Kim Jong Un seeks to be treated as a legitimate possessor of nuclear weapons, with all the assumed political benefits and sanctions relief that such a status might convey. Official Washington refuses to acknowledge that no amount of pressure or inducement will result in North Korea's unilateral disarmament. The chasm between America's political fantasy and North Korea's great expectations is vast.

Iran’s Nuclear Program is Back to Pre-JCPOA Situation, Says Nuclear Chief

Radio Farda

Iran's Atomic Energy Organization Chief Ali Akbar Salehi says Iran will soon introduce a set of 30 modern IR-6 centrifuges within the next 2 or 3 weeks as the latest development in its nuclear program. Salehi added that a new part of the heavy water reactor in Arak in central Iran will become operational within the next two weeks. This comes while Iran is bound by its 2015 nuclear deal with six world powers, also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) not to employ more than 30 of this model of centrifuge until 2023. Salehi said in an interview with Iran's state TV on Tuesday October 8 that Iran's nuclear program has “returned to pre-JCPOA situation” as it has increased the production of over 3.5 percent enriched uranium to 5 to 6 kilograms a day. Following the imposition of heavy sanctions by the United States, Iran has been warning the European signatories of the JCPOA that it will reduce its commitment to the deal as long as Europe fails to help Tehran to sell oil in the international markets and repatriate its revenues. 

Maximum Pressure Against North Korea, RIP

Stephanie Kleine-Ahlbrandt | 38 North

This article assesses the efficacy of the United Nations (UN) sanctions regime for North Korea. It reaches the following principal conclusions: When it comes to North Korea sanctions, US policymakers are failing to grasp a hard truth: UN sanctions are a depreciating asset and the needle can’t be pointed in the other direction. Inadequate sanctions and effective North Korean efforts at circumvention are compounded by a widening gulf at the UN on everything from the content and strategic direction of sanctions to the mechanics of implementation. The ability of the UN Panel of Experts to monitor and report on sanctions and recommend measures to improve implementation has been irreparably weakened. The crumbling of the sanctions regime for North Korea has put the North in a stronger position and will increase its leverage in future US-DPRK negotiations. The Trump administration bears special responsibility for this situation. It has been its own worst enemy in the maximum pressure campaign.

N. Korea Able to Use Punggye-ri Nuke Testing Site After Restoration Work: JCS

Yonhap News Agency

North Korea is believed to be able to reuse its now-defunct Punggye-ri nuclear test site after weeks or months of restoration work, though no such moves have been detected, South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said Tuesday. In May last year, the communist country demolished the testing site, which included four tunnels, in a show of its commitment to denuclearization. “Two of the four tunnels -- the No. 3 and No. 4 ones -- could be able to be used again after repair,” Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Park Han-ki told lawmakers during a parliamentary audit, noting that “at least weeks or months will be necessary for their restoration.” A senior-level JCS officer then added that no moves for restoration have been detected. Declaring the breakdown of its working-level talks with the United States held in Sweden last week, the North's top nuclear negotiator Kim Myong-gil said, “Whether our suspension of the nuclear and ICBM tests will continue or they will be revived will depend wholly on the U.S. stance.”

Russia is Helping China Build a New Missile Attack Warning System, Putin Says

Daria Litvinova | CBS News

Russia is helping China build a new missile attack warning system, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced Thursday. Neither Putin nor Russia's major weapons manufacturer, which confirmed the deal on Friday, revealed any further details about the system or conditions of the agreement, or when it might be operational. “We are currently helping our Chinese partners to create a missile attack warning system. It's a serious thing that will drastically increase the defense capabilities of the People's Republic of China,” Putin announced at a political conference in Sochi on Thursday. “Right now only the U.S. and Russia have such systems,” he said. On Friday, Sergei Boyev, director general of Vympel, Russia's major weapons manufacturer, confirmed to Russia's state-run media that the company was working on “modelling” the system for China. Boyev designed Russia's missile attack warning system. Russia's missile attack warning system was built to detect attacks on state and military command posts, and with its incorporated satellites, provides data to Moscow's missile defense system as well as for the country's space monitoring system. 

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Raises Alarm That Trump May Axe the Open Skies Treaty

Joseph Trevithick | War Zone

The Chairman of the House Foreign Relations Committee has sent a letter to National Security Advisor Robert O'Brien saying he has seen reports that President Trump's Administration may be preparing to leave the Open Skies Treaty. This international agreement allows signatories to fly largely unrestricted aerial surveillance missions over each other's territory using approved aircraft and sensors and with monitors from the host country on board. The deal has drawn criticism from certain members of Congress and other U.S. government officials over the years who argue that Russia has been abusing its terms. Engel does not elaborate on what reports he is referring to or where he heard them. A cursory search of available news reporting on Open Skies does not yield any recent news reports that the treaty is in any kind of imminent jeopardy. The State Department did say that it couldn't comment on “deliberative matters” when The War Zone asked if there were any plans to leave the agreement or if the OSCE had been notified of the U.S. government's intention to do so. The language in Engel's letter would seem to suggest that he is also attempting to ascertain whether or not these reports are accurate and, if so, how close the Trump Administration is to actually pulling out of the deal.