Dealing with North Korea’s 5th Nuclear Test

Responding to another North Korean nuclear test - “It’s been a banner year for North Korea,” writes Joel Wit for The New York Times. The government in Pyongyang has already conducted 17 missile tests and two nuclear tests, including the most recent nuclear explosion on Friday. And there are still three and a half months left in 2016… All of this bad news should, just in time for a new presidential administration, put to rest the misconceptions that have driven the United States’ failed North Korea policy, especially the idea that China, Pyongyang’s closest ally, will solve the problem.”

--“Our allies, who look to us to provide leadership, already know this. So do the Chinese, who insist that only Washington can persuade the North Koreans to stop their bad behavior. North Korean officials have even told me in private that it is true for them, too… [And] there are signs that North Korea is interested in dialogue. On July 6, the government issued a pronouncement ostensibly seeking denuclearization talks with the United States, specifically mentioning Kim Jong-un’s name in support of this initiative.”

--“A successful strategy will have to include a new diplomatic initiative aimed at persuading the North to first stop expanding its arsenal and then to eventually reduce and dismantle its weapons. To persuade the North Koreans to do this, Washington will have to address their security concerns. In the short term, that may mean temporarily suspending or modifying some American-South Korean military exercises. In the longer term, it may mean replacing the armistice in place since the end of the Korean War with a permanent peace agreement.” Full story here.

See also - “What to Make of North Korea’s Latest Nuclear Test?” By Siegfried Hecker for 38 North.

Iran Deal is a model for arms control - “The process of diplomacy that the U.S. pursued with Iran could offer some insights on how to begin engagement with [North Korea],” writes Suzanne Dimaggio for Foreign Policy. “When a new administration takes office in January 2017, a review of U.S. policy toward North Korea should place high on its to-do list. A review should yield a definitive conclusion that the policy of “strategic patience” — continuing to apply pressure through sanctions and waiting to see if North Korea will change its current course and denuclearize or collapse — is not working.”

--“The right next step would be to take a page from Obama’s Iran playbook and, while ramping up the pressure track, pursue aggressive diplomacy with Pyongyang as a priority with the aim of bringing North Korea back to the negotiating table and reviving the six-party talks. Perhaps the most obvious and biggest lesson to be gleaned from the Iran nuclear deal for North Korea is that principled and pragmatic diplomacy in the absence of trust is hard, but it’s not impossible.” Full story here.

Tweet - @ArmsControlNow: “Does North Korea nuclear deterrence policy need to change?” Yes, says our BoD member @GregThielmann

North Korea’s 5th test is a big deal - “How to assess the merit of [North Korea’s] claims? One seemingly oblique but constructive way is to look at the fifth nuclear tests of other countries—the United States, Russia, Britain, France, and China. These five fifth tests are a fairly telling set. By their fifth tests, all five countries had demonstrated the technologies to reduce the size of first-generation weapons, and were well on their way to building thermonuclear weapons,” writes Jeffrey Lewis for The Atlantic.

--“North Korea is coming last, in an era when these technologies are 50 years old and have been demonstrated repeatedly by other nuclear powers. In this context, the country’s boasts about building nuclear weapons small enough to arm missiles and making use of thermonuclear materials don’t seem outlandish at all.” Full story here.

See also - “North Korea’s Nuke Program Is Way More Sophisticated Than You Think,” by Jeffrey Lewis for Foreign Policy.

Conventional deterrence in action - “The U.S. Air Force today sent two non-nuclear B-1 bombers to overfly South Korea in response to North Korea’s recent nuclear test. The operation coincides with the deployment of two non-nuclear B-1 bombers and a recently denuclearized B-52 bomber to Europe for exercise Ample Strike… The use of exclusively non-nuclear strategic bombers in support of extended deterrence missions signals a new phase in U.S. military strategy that is part of an effort to reduce the role of nuclear weapons,” writes Hans Kristensen for the Federation of American Scientists.

--“The two non-nuclear bomber operations are important because they follow the 2013 Nuclear Employments Strategy which… stated that ‘planning for non-nuclear strike options is a central part of reducing the role of nuclear weapons.’ Advocates for building a new nuclear air-launched cruise missile (LRSO) argue old-fashionedly that the weapon is essential for providing assurance and deterrence in support of allies in Europe and Asia. But the recent non-nuclear bomber operations demonstrate that conventional bomber with conventional cruise missiles can also serve that mission – and already do.” Full story here.

Break the nuclear piggybank - “Rather than tailoring the next generation of nuclear deterrence to geopolitical realities, the United States is replacing its massive nuclear arsenal on a one-for-one basis as if the Cold War never ended. These plans are excessive, destabilizing and threaten the national security of the United States. And all of them will be locked in and set in motion before the next president has been elected or has had any time to consider what the best strategy is under a new administration,” writes Will Saetren for The National Interest.

--“Before he leaves office, President Obama should place an immediate spending freeze on the most redundant and excessive nuclear modernization programs already underway. These include the new Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM), the Long-Range Standoff weapon (LRSO) and the B61-12 gravity bomb. Doing so would give the next president the flexibility to make common-sense reductions that would save billions of dollars while presenting a leaner and more efficient fighting force.” Full story here.

Status of the CTBT after 20 years - “September 2016 marks the 20th anniversary of the opening for signature of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), which bans all nuclear explosions in all environments. Unfortunately, the treaty has not yet entered into force despite it having been adopted by the UN General Assembly on 10 September 1996. Although 183 states have signed and 164 have ratified the CTBT, its entry into force will only take place 180 days after 44 states designated as ‘nuclear-capable states’ ... have all ratified whether or not all other UN members are party to it,” writes Noel Scott for The Institute for Security Studies.

--“While the DPRK is the only country that presently continues to test, the resumption of nuclear testing by all other nuclear-armed states is still legal. According to Shervin Taheran, a programme associate at the Arms Control Association, ‘The longer the CTBT’s entry into force is delayed, the higher the odds that one or more states will try to conduct a nuclear test explosion, openly or in secret, which would trigger a new round of nuclear testing.’” Full story here.

Command & Control review - “It would be impossible to fully replicate the depth of dread and disbelief that Command and Control—Eric Schlosser's 2013 book chronicling the Air Force's history of nuclear weapons mishaps—bestows on its readers,” writes Michael Mechanic for Mother Jones. “While the film's producers were forced to simplify and trim from the book's deeper content, any viewer who has not read the original or who, like most Americans, pays little heed to our modern nuclear arsenal, is due for a fine scare.”

--“The central narrative thread involves a technician's mistake at a Titan 2 silo that ended with the explosion of a missile whose warhead was more powerful than all the bombs America dropped in WWII combined, the nukes included… ‘Nuclear accidents continue to the present day,’ Harold Brown, who was defense secretary under Jimmy Carter at the time of the Damascus Incident, says in the film. ‘The degree of oversight and attention has if anything gotten worse, because people don't worry about nuclear war as much.’” Full story here.

Tweet -

--“The Future of Arms Control and Strategic Stability,” with 10 speakers. September 15 from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m. at the Carnegie Endowment, 1179 Massachusetts Ave. NW, Washington, DC. RSVP online.

--“Report Launch of Sponsored Independent Task Force on U.S. Policy Toward North Korea,” with Adm. Mike Mullen, MGM Consulting; Senator Sam Nunn, Nuclear Threat Initiative; and Adam Mount, Center for American Progress. September 16 at 8:30 a.m. at the Council on Foreign Relations, Washington. Webcast on CFR website.

--“Author talk with Dan Zak,” with Dan Zak, author of Almighty: Courage, Resistance, and Existential Peril in the Nuclear Age. September 20 from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. at Potter's House,1658 Columbia Road NW, Washington.

--“Strategic Conversation on U.S. Foreign and National Security Policy,” featuring Rep. Adam Smith (WA). September 22 from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m., at the Stimson Center, 1211 Connecticut Ave. NW, Eighth Floor, Washington. RSVP Online.

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