North Korea’s Big Confusing Nuclear Weekend
On the radar: Unveiling of new missile systems and a failed missile test on the Korean Peninsula; Heedless tweets do not a strategy make; Former Secretary of Defense on North Korea: diplomacy is still the key; Understanding North Korea’s strategic recklessness; New sanctions could put Iran deal in hot water; “No nukes” still better than small nukes; and The Onion reports: North Korea makes up for failed missile test with detonation of nuclear scientist
Lessons from DPRK Military Parade - “With the kind of fanfare that only a totalitarian state can muster, North Korea on Saturday flaunted missiles that can theoretically reach the United States and defiantly stated that it was prepared to counter any U.S. attack with ‘a nuclear war of our own,’” writes Anna Fifield for The Washington Post. “But it soon looked like a case of style over substance. North Korea somewhat ruined the impression created with the parade, which took place on the most important day of the year for Kim Jong Un’s regime, with a failed missile launch Sunday morning.”
--“‘This was a promise of future capabilities more than a demonstration of existing missiles,’ said Joe Cirincione, president of the Ploughshares Fund, which tries to stop the spread of nuclear weapons. ‘We do not know if there is actually an ICBM in that canister. But it is certainly coming.’” Michael Elleman of the International Institute for Strategic Studies echoed this sentiment later in the article: “‘It’s alarming that they are pouring so much money and resources into this program… Eventually, they are going to be successful.’” For the full article, click here.
See also - “North Korean Missile Parade: JucheFest 2017” by Jeffrey Lewis and Scott LaFoy for Arms Control Wonk Podcast here.
Trump needs a Korean strategy - “What’s missing in the White House is a coherent strategy, something beyond statements and asking China for help,” writes The New York Times Editorial Board. “Mr. Trump needs to be firm, not reckless in his talk, ratchet up sanctions and find a way to engage the North in negotiations. Peace and security in Asia, as well as the relationship between Washington and Beijing, depend heavily on whether Mr. Trump and President Xi Jinping of China can together manage the North Korean threat.”
--“It would be risky for Mr. Trump to let overconfidence and bombast, expressed in tweets and public statements, box him into some kind of showdown with the North’s ruthless leader, Kim Jong-un, who has displayed similarly macho traits… His intemperate talk is adding to regional tensions, unnerving allies and likely reinforcing North Korea’s longstanding fear that it could one day be attacked by America — the very reason North Korea invested in a nuclear arsenal in the first place.” Article here.
See also - “Pence: US won’t rest until N. Korea gives up nuclear weapons” by Ken Thomas, Elaine Kurtenbach and Mari Yamaguchi for Associated Press here.
Diplomatic solution possible with North Korea - “Why should we believe that diplomacy might be successful now when it has been ineffective for the past 16 years?” asks William J. Perry for POLITICO Magazine. He proposes a new negotiating strategy, predicated on the fact that the Kims see nukes as their only guarantor of dynastic survival: “With that understanding, a new negotiating strategy can be employed - one that should allow the North Korean regime to see a way of surviving without nuclear weapons, and that should be backed up by more powerful economic incentives and disincentives than before.”
--“China is the only nation that can provide powerful economic disincentives for North Korea, by withholding their substantial food and fuel support. China has been unwilling to do this so far, but in recent months, North Korea’s nuclear threats have become increasingly adverse to China’s core interests.” In the wake of strikes in Syria and Afghanistan, “Kim Jong Un must now believe that there is a real possibility the U.S. is prepared to use military force, and must tailor his actions accordingly… We still have a real opportunity for successful diplomacy. The big question is: Do we have the sense to seize this chance? After all, it could be the last one we have.” Full article here.
See also - “Escalating Tensions Between US and North Korea” an interview with Ploughshares Fund Executive Director Philip Yun for 2GB 873AM Radio here.
What does North Korea’s rhetoric mean? - “North Korea has long been seen to use provocation and brinkmanship to raise tension for its own strategic advantage,” writes John Sudworth for BBC News. “It is then able to win diplomatic and economic concessions through negotiations to defuse the crisis, only later to go on to renege on its disarmament commitments. As the cycle begins again, at each stage, it moves a step closer to its goal of becoming a fully-fledged nuclear power. But while the current state of technological advancement of North Korea's weapons programme matters deeply to the outside world, in particular its near neighbours, the hostile rhetoric is rarely something to take at face value.”
--“For the US and its allies, war carries incalculable risks and although Washington insists that all options are on the table, it now appears to be signalling that diplomacy and toughened sanctions are the most likely way forward. It is as yet unclear how, having failed before, those things will force this most totalitarian of states to give up its nuclear weapons. Full story here.
See also - “Nuclear anxiety grows with North Korea standoff” by Rebecca Kheel And Ellen Mitchell for The Hill here.
Job Announcement - Ploughshares Fund seeks applicants for a competitive, one-year paid position as a Roger L. Hale Fellow. The Fellow works primarily with the policy (analysis/advocacy) team to conduct research on current nuclear weapons-related topics, monitor government policy, and write for publication on the Ploughshares Fund website and other venues. The Fellow will be based in the Washington, DC office of Ploughshares Fund. For details, click here.
Trump administration poised for more Iran sanctions - “The administration is inclined to adopt a ‘more rigorous application of the tools at its disposal,’ a senior White House official told Foreign Policy, referring to sanctions policy,” writes Dan De Luce for Foreign Policy. “Among the options under consideration: broadening U.S. sanctions to include much larger chunks of the Iranian economy linked to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).”
--“Tougher U.S. sanctions would make for a tougher re-election fight for President Hassan Rouhani, a relative moderate who championed the 2015 nuclear deal but is under pressure to show Iranians a notable improvement in the economy. And a harder line on sanctions also could drive a wedge between Washington and its European allies. ‘Sweeping sanctions that cut across economic sectors could jeopardize the nuclear agreement and prompt Iran to withdraw,’ said Richard Nephew, who was the leading sanctions expert on the U.S. team that negotiated the accord with Iran.” For the full article, click here.
Take action - Ready to restore checks and balances to the nuclear codes? Inspired by the legislation proposed by Rep. Ted Lieu and Sen. Ed Markey, Ploughshares Fund, along with sixteen other public interest groups, has created a new petition urging Congress to keep America safe by preventing any U.S. President from unilaterally launching a nuclear weapon. Sign and share the petition today.
Low-yield nukes a bad proposition - “In December, the Defense Science Board—an independent group of experts and former officials that provides advice to the Defense Department—submitted a report advising the Pentagon to invest in low-yield nuclear weapons that could provide ‘a rapid, tailored nuclear option for limited use,’” writes James Doyle for Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, arguing that “building ‘mini’ or tailored nuclear weapons might well lower the threshold to nuclear war; risking that outcome would only make sense if it were absolutely clear that introducing these weapons would remedy some dangerous weakness in deterrence.”
--“Nuclear weapons are best maintained as weapons of last resort, not as weapons that might magically alter in one’s favor the terms of a conventional conflict… potential nuclear adversaries are likely to see the acquisition of additional weapons in this category as an indication that US opposition to nuclear use has decreased and that Washington may be the first to cross the nuclear threshold. Such an outcome would undermine global stability and increase the risk of nuclear war. Defense resources are better spent on strengthening US conventional forces.” Find the entire story here.
See also - “US launches qualification tests for upgraded nuke bomb” by by Susan Montoya Bryan for AP News here.
Ploughshares President on WBEZ Chicago - “US Drops 'Mother Of All Bombs' in Afghanistan.” For full interview, click here.
--“Can the INF Treaty Survive? Putin’s New Missile Presents A Major Test for Arms Control” by Greg Thielmann for Arms Control Today here.
--“Trump’s foreign policy: Speak with a bullhorn and carry a big stick” by Aaron Blake for The Washington Post here.
--“China’s Korea policy ‘in tatters’ as both North and South defy sanctions” by Simon Denyer for The Washington Post here.
--“How Weapons of Mass Destruction Became ‘Red Lines’ for America” by Jonathan Hunt for The Atlantic here.
--The Federation of American Scientists presents: "Science & Security Summit 2017: How Can Scientists & Engineers Keep Us Safe?" Featuring: John P. Holdren, Richard Meserve, and Rodney Wilson. Introducing: Three distinguished graduate-level scientists and engineers. Friday, April 21 (12-3 p.m.) at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (1779 Massachusetts Ave NW, Washington, DC 20036). Full event details here.
--“Short Course on Nuclear Weapon and Related Security Issues." American Physical Society. George Washington University, Elliott School of International Affairs, April 21-22, 2017. 1957 E St. NW, Washington, DC 20052. RSVP here.
--“Toward a Fundamental Change in Nuclear Weapons Policy" Soka Gakkai International-USA. Thursday April 27, 2017, 9:00 a.m.-5:30 p.m. at the United States Capitol Visitor Center - Congressional Meeting Room South (CVC-217). Details here.
--“Reducing the Threat of Nuclear War.” Featuring: Joe Cirincione, William Hartung, Elaine Scarry, and others. Massachusetts Peace Action. Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Saturday May 6, 2017, 9:00a.m.-5:00p.m. MIT Room 34-101, 50 Vassar St, Cambridge, MA 02139. Details here.
--“The Women’s March to Ban the Bomb.” Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. Saturday, June 17, 2017, 12:00p.m.-4:00p.m. Dag Hammarskjold Plaza, Greenmarket, 2nd Avenue, New York, NY 10017. Details here.
North Korea successfully blows up nuclear scientist - “Hailing it as a significant step forward for their ballistic weapons program just hours after suffering a failed missile launch, North Korean leaders announced Monday they had successfully detonated a nuclear scientist,” The Onion reports. “It was with great satisfaction this morning that I witnessed the detonation of a 156-pound nuclear scientist,” Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un said in a recorded statement.”
--“‘With this glorious achievement, our laboratories have begun to move much faster toward completing our goal of building an indomitable nuclear arsenal capable of annihilating all cowardly Western aggressors. We are prepared to detonate multiple scientists every month as a demonstration of our might and determination.’” For the full article, click here.