October 13, 2020

Practical Ways to Promote U.S.-China Arms Control Cooperation

Tong Zhao | Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

The strategic competition between China and the United States is likely to remain intense for the foreseeable future. Arms control offers a way to help contain its severity and manage its consequences, while reducing the economic burden of defense spending for both countries in the aftermath of a global pandemic and the worst recession in decades. To be sure, arms control will not eliminate all military competition or all the risks associated with the Sino-U.S. ideological confrontation. But it does offer a mutually beneficial way to mitigate the confrontation’s most dangerous aspects, and, to date, neither government has seriously explored its potential.

 

A Nuclear North Korea’s Wake-Up Call

Ankit Panda | The Diplomat

On Saturday, October 10, North Korea celebrated the 75th anniversary of the founding of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK), the country’s ruling party. The occasion was celebrated in a grand way, with an unprecedented pre-dawn military parade. Thousands of uniformed military personnel marched through Pyongyang’s renovated Kim Il Sung Square in perfect unison, trailed by scores of heavy military vehicles. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un kicked the occasion off with a public address. An emotional Kim acknowledged that 2020 had been a difficult year for the country. North Korea locked its borders down early this year, acknowledging the coronavirus pandemic as a possible threat to its “national survival.” Kim claimed that not a single case of the disease had been detected in North Korea—a claim disputed by experts. 

 

Threat From Nuclear Weapons and Missiles has Grown Since Trump Entered Office

Paul Sonne | Washington Post

North Korea’s new road-mobile intercontinental ballistic missile, paraded through the streets of Pyongyang this past weekend, has underscored a worrying reality: The global threat from nuclear weapons and menacing missiles has grown since President Trump entered office, despite his administration’s fitful efforts to control them. The unveiling of the untested weapon — which appeared to be a larger version of a North Korean missile that can reach the United States — came less than a week after Russia test launched an anti-ship hypersonic cruise missile on President Vladimir Putin’s birthday and a month and a half after China test fired its “carrier killer” and “Guam killer” ballistic missiles into the disputed South China Sea. The situation presents a broader challenge to the United States. The administration has heralded an era of “great power competition” with China and Russia, resulting in a competitive buildup that arms-control advocates warn is risking a full-blown arms race.

 

Trump’s Virus Treatment Revives Questions About Unchecked Nuclear Authority

David E. Sanger and William J. Broad | New York Times

President Trump’s long rants and seemingly erratic behavior last week — which some doctors believe might have been fueled by his use of dexamethasone, a steroid, to treat Covid-19 — renewed a long-simmering debate among national security experts about whether it is time to retire one of the early inventions of the Cold War: the unchecked authority of the president to launch nuclear weapons. Mr. Trump has publicly threatened the use of those weapons only once in his presidency, during his first collision with North Korea in 2017. But it was his decision not to invoke the 25th Amendment and turn control over to Vice President Mike Pence last week that has prompted concern inside and outside the government.

 

Trump Administration Renews Push for Nuclear Arms Agreement With Russia Before Election

Vivian Salama and Mary Ilyushina | CNN

With only weeks to go until the general election, the Trump administration is renewing a push to finalize a nuclear agreement with Moscow, hoping that a deal may force China to reconsider its position on trilateral arms talks. A senior administration official told CNN that the effort made some headway when President Donald Trump's national security adviser Robert O'Brien met in early October with Nikolai Patrushev, the top national security adviser to Russian President Vladimir Putin. The meeting, which took place in Geneva, got the ball rolling for a follow up meeting between Trump's arms control envoy, Marshall Billingslea, and his Russian counterpart, Sergei Ryabkov, the official said. The two sides reached an agreement in principle, the official added, but the effort remains a work-in-progress, and talks are ongoing.

 

Controversy Over Bids to Host Nuclear Waste Highlights Disposal Issue

Eric Johnston | Japan Times

Last Friday, the mayor of Suttsu, Hokkaido, a small town on the west coast of the island, applied for a preliminary survey for a final disposal site for high-level nuclear waste. The survey is the first stage in the process of creating an underground storage facility for high-level radioactive waste from the nation’s nuclear power plants. In addition to Suttsu, the village assembly of Kamoenai, about 40 kilometers away, has also agreed to undergo a survey, which comes with substantial central government funding for the cash-strapped, graying localities.