November 21, 2019

US to Europe: Fix Open Skies Treaty or We Quit

Joe Gould and Aaron Mehta | Defense News

NATO allies worried U.S. President Donald Trump will abandon the Open Skies Treaty have been told the administration views the arms control agreement as a danger to U.S. national security, and that unless those nations can assuage such concerns, the U.S. will likely pull out, Defense News has learned. At a meeting in Brussels last week, Trump administration officials laid out for the first time a full suite of concerns with the treaty and made clear they were seriously considering an exit. The agreement, ratified in 2002, allows mutual reconnaissance flights over its 34 members, including the U.S. and Russia. According to one senior administration official, the U.S. delegation presented classified intelligence to the foreign officials to explain its concerns, chiefly that Russian forces are “misusing the treaty in their targeting of critical U.S. infrastructure,” and to request help from allies to address those concerns if the treaty is to be saved. “This is a U.S. position — that we think this treaty is a danger to our national security. We get nothing out of it. Our allies get nothing out of it, and it is our intention to withdraw, similar to what we did with [the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty]. From our perspective, the analysis is done,” the senior Trump administration official said. “The Europeans got that. It was a splash of cold water on their faces.” The NATO allies did not reach an agreement at that meeting, the official noted. Sources with several of these allied countries told Defense News that the Trump administration has indicated over the last month that there likely won’t be a final decision on the treaty before late January.

UN Nuclear Watchdog Calls on Iran to Clear Up Origin of Uranium Traces

Reuters

The U.N. nuclear watchdog and Iran will discuss the discovery of uranium traces at an undeclared site in Tehran next week, the agency’s acting chief said on Thursday, adding that Iran had not provided any more information about the origin of the particles. Reuters first reported in September that the International Atomic Energy Agency found the uranium traces at the site that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu drew attention to in a speech last year, calling it a “secret atomic warehouse”. Tehran has said the site is a carpet-cleaning facility. Having long declined to comment on the specifics, two weeks ago the IAEA confirmed to member states that environmental samples taken at the site had shown traces of natural uranium that was processed by human activity but had not been enriched. “We have continued our interactions with Iran since then, but have not received any additional information and the matter remains unresolved,” IAEA acting chief Cornel Feruta told a quarterly meeting of his agency’s 35-nation Board of Governors. “A meeting between the Agency and Iran is scheduled next week in Tehran to discuss it further,” Feruta said. “It is essential that Iran works with the Agency to resolve this matter promptly.” 

North Korea Says Kim Turned Down Moon Invitation to Visit South

Kim Tong-Hyung | AP

Blaming its rival for a recent chill in relations, North Korea on Thursday said its leader turned down an invitation by South Korean President Moon Jae-in to participate in a regional summit next week. The announcement continued North Korea’s current hardball approach with Washington and Seoul following months of unprecedented summitry as they near an end-of-year deadline issued by the North’s leader, Kim Jong Un, for the U.S. to salvage fragile nuclear talks. The statement carried by the North’s official Korean Central News Agency said there is no reason for Kim to visit the South under “beclouded air” and accused Moon’s government of failing to uphold agreements reached between the leaders in three summits last year. North Korea has suspended virtually all cooperation with South Korea amid the standstill in negotiations with the United States, while demanding that Seoul defy U.S.-led international sanctions and restart joint economic projects that would aid the North’s broken economy. But without a breakthrough in the nuclear talks between Washington and Pyongyang, the economic projects remain shelved. 

South Korea Nuclear Regulator Wants Information on Radioactive Fukushima Water Release

Jane Chung | Reuters

Japan’s reluctance to disclose information about the release of radioactive water from its damaged Fukushima nuclear plant is hampering neighboring countries’ efforts to minimize the impact, the head of South Korea’s nuclear safety agency said on Wednesday. Since the 2011 earthquake and tsunami caused a meltdown at some of the reactors the Fukushima plant, owner Tokyo Electric Power Co (Tepco) has been storing radioactive water in tanks at the site from the cooling pipes used to keep the fuel cores from melting. The utility will run out of space for the water in 2022. Japan has not yet decided how to deal with the contaminated water, but its environment minister said in September that radioactive water would have to be released from the site into the Pacific Ocean. “We have been raising Japan’s radioactive water issue to the international community to minimize the impact ... but as Japan hasn’t disclosed any specific plan and process we would need more details to run simulations and study,” Uhm Jae-sik, chairman of the Nuclear Safety and Security Commission, told Reuters. In addition to the Fukushima crisis, safety concerns about nuclear energy have increased in South Korea following a 2012 scandal over the supply of faulty reactors parts with forged documents, prompting a series of shutdowns of nuclear reactors.

Secretary Michael R. Pompeo at a Press Availability

U.S. Department of State

Question: Earlier in the year, President Trump said that we will not negotiate on the issue of missile defense, and both Russia and China have opposed to U.S. expanding missile defense.  Is that still the case that the United States will not negotiate on the issue of missile defense, even if there are oppositions from an adversary like Russia?

Secretary Pompeo: President Trump will never allow America to enter into any arms control agreement that doesn’t make sense for the United States of America or to renew any existing arms control agreement that expires if it no longer makes sense for America. So with that – with that as the central core principle, we – the President has spoken deeply about how the world has changed since New START was originally created.  We now have an expanded threat from the Chinese Communist Party.  The President’s made clear that any time we begin to have a conversation about how to create a strategic – a strategic structure that secures America, it’s no longer the case that it can only be the United States and Russia.  And so we will – we will work to make sure that as we move these conversations forward, these dialogues about what’s the right way to ensure American national security, whether that’s in arms control or, frankly, for that matter, in any other space, we will have the protection of the American people and the stability for the free peoples of the world foremost front and center in how we think about that problem set.

India Test Fires Two Prithvi-II Short-Range Nuclear-Capable Ballistic Missiles

Franz-Stefan Gady | Diplomat

India’s Strategic Forces Command (SFC) test launched two short-range nuclear capable ballistic missiles at night as part of its annual training cycle to test the combat readiness of the Indian Army’s missile forces. Two Prithvi-II tactical surface-to-surface short-range ballistic missiles were test fired from the Integrated Test Range (ITR) on Dr. Abdul Kalam Island in the Bay of Bengal off the coast of Odisha at nighttime on November 20. The last nighttime test firing of a Prithvi-II took place in June of this year. A previous test took place in February 2018. Earlier this month, the SFC conducted a test launch of an Agni-II medium- to intermediate-range ballistic missile from Abdul Kalam Island in the Bay of Bengal. As I reported earlier this week, DRDO has so far not conducted a scheduled test firing of a K-4 intermediate-range, nuclear-capable submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) from a submerged platform. The launch was supposed to take place earlier this month off the coast of Andhra Pradesh in southeastern India. No test has taken place to date. Notably, Pakistan’s military test fired a Shaheen-I medium-range ballistic missile (MRBM) on November 18.