Mr. Xi Goes to Mar-A-Lago
On the radar: Nuclear issues on the table for Trump, Xi meeting; North Korea’s bargaining strategy; Untangling Tillerson’s tough terseness; Getting serious about Indian nuclear strategy; Proposals for Trump’s wall include nuclear booby traps; Ban talks a good beginning, but not the end
Mar-a-Lago’s meeting of minds - “Donald Trump’s meeting with his Chinese counterpart this week will be the most important diplomatic encounter of his presidency so far,” writes The New York Times editorial board. “Mr. Trump does seem to appreciate the threat from North Korea’s rapidly advancing nuclear and missile programs, putting that matter at the top of his agenda. He could hardly avoid it, given the fact that the North conducted another missile test on Tuesday as Mr. Xi was en route to the United States.”
--“Mr. Trump has repeatedly made clear that he expects China, the North’s main supplier of food and fuel, to increase pressure beyond what it has been willing to do so far to force an end to the weapons programs… Most experts believe that the North will not abandon its nuclear program unless the leadership at the top changes... The United States and China may have a long-shot chance at an achievable solution if they agree to increase sanctions on North Korea and pursue more modest goals — halting North Korean missile tests and curbing the production of additional nuclear weapons — but there has been no serious sign of interest from the Trump administration.” Full piece here.
Tweet - @NukeStrat: “Interesting read for historical reasons & understanding challenges for North Korea to go thermonuclear https://t.co/aNtYC8GA6Q@wellerstein”
Nuclear-tipped bargaining chip - “As the leaders of China and the United States sit down for a summit on Thursday, North Korea has made sure it also has something on the negotiating table: A nuclear-tipped bargaining chip,” write James Pearson and Ju-Min Park for Reuters. “North Korea launched a projectile on Wednesday, which U.S. officials said appeared to be a liquid-fueled, extended-range Scud missile that only traveled a fraction of its range before spinning out of control and crashing into the sea.”
--“The launch was North Korea's latest in a long series of missile and nuclear tests that have accelerated in their variation and intensity over the last two years… This year, North Korea officials, including young leader Kim Jong Un, have repeatedly indicated an ICBM test, or something similar, could be coming, possibly as soon as April 15, the 105th birthday of North Korea's founding president.” Full story here.
Tillerson’s terse words on DPRK - “The response of America’s chief diplomat to North Korea’s latest missile launch was an abrupt departure from the usual,” writes Kim Tong Hyung for the AP. “The statement from U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson totaled 23 words: ‘North Korea launched yet another intermediate range ballistic missile. The United States has spoken enough about North Korea. We have no further comment.’”
--“While Trump and his top policymakers continue their tough talk on the North Korean issue, it’s unclear such rhetoric would be enough to effectively influence North Korea and China, Pyongyang’s only major ally. Every North Korean nuclear test and missile launch reminds the United States and its allies of the limited options they have on Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions.” Full piece here.
Take action - Ready to restore checks and balances to the nuclear codes? Inspired by the legislation proposed by Rep. Ted Liu 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.
India’s scary nuclear strategy evolving - “Most debates on South Asian security strategy tend to not attract much attention amongst U.S. policymakers except during the occasional crisis. Warnings about arms racing, belligerence, and nuclear risks between India and Pakistan have become so commonplace that they elicit yawns or eye rolls… However, Narang points out that recent statements from senior Indian government and defense officials suggest India could be shifting toward a counter-force strategy,” write Shameer Lalwani and Hannah Haegeland for War on the Rocks.
--“Such a strategy would seek to target and disarm Pakistan’s nuclear weapons and related military infrastructure by destroying them with nuclear strikes. Whether in the form of a preemptive first strike or a massive second strike, this strategy is inherently more offensive than the current counter-value strategy, which targets Pakistani cities in response to a nuclear attack against India… The risks that growing capabilities and shifting strategic logics bring to the subcontinent are too dangerous not to warrant further consideration.” Full article here.
See also - ”India, Long at Odds With Pakistan, May Be Rethinking Nuclear First Strikes” by Max Fisher for The New York Times here.
Not the end, but good beginning - “Banning nuclear weapons will not eliminated them, but it is a step towards a better future. The movement for a ban has shined a light on the unacceptable humanitarian costs of nuclear weapons, in itself a worthwhile aim,” argues Jennifer Knox for AlterNet. “The nuclear ban opens up an old conversation, but it starts -- for perhaps the first time -- on the right foot.”
--“The ban negotiations rest on a fundamental principle: the voices of the states that possess nuclear weapons are not more authoritative than the voices of the states that have rejected them. Nuclear disarmament has long been mired in a sterile security framework. Dominated by the interests of a handful of governments, progress has ground to a halt. But the humanitarian risks of nuclear weapons use must be addressed without delay -- especially now, as global tensions rise and exacerbate those risks.” For the full article, click here.
Tweet - @Cirincione: Will the Great Dealmaker make a deal on North Korea? My take in 90 seconds here.
Trump’s interesting infrastructure initiatives - David Grossman for Popular Mechanics considers the wide-ranging proposals for a border wall, including one that stores nuclear waste: “Another proposal, from Clayton Industries of Pittsburgh, has one crazy idea bound to keep people away from the wall: fill it with nuclear waste. Using trenches at least 100 feet deep to store the waste, Clayton would also draw funds from the Department of Energy to further fund the wall. The company would also build a railroad along the wall as a further disincentive to try to cross it. Proposals adding elements like this to wall reflect the reality that it will likely generate no economic benefits on its own.” For the full article, click here.
Tweet - @NukeStrat: “Tweeting it out twice doesn't make it better. Existing Triad is not outdated but ready and will remain so through 2020s when new is fielded.” @US_Stratcom: Top General: ‘Nearly All Elements of Nuclear Triad’ Outdated. Story: https://t.co/tmxbusyedr
--“Trump Raises Pressure on North Korea” by Rebecca Kheel for The Hill here.
--“Little Progress in Reining in North Korea, U.S. Commander Says Before Trump-Xi Summit” by Tim Kelly and Ju-Min Park for Reuters here.
--“The Failure of Trump Care is Good News for the Iran Deal” by Ilan Goldberg for Foreign Policy here.
--“Cooperate or Else!: North Korea at Mar-A-Lago” by John Delury for 38 North here.
--Over a hundred people attended a memorial gathering for David Culp yesterday on Capitol Hill. Please share your memories of this remarkable man and passionate advocate of the arms control community here.
--“Remembering Paul Leventhal: Nuclear Lessons for a New Administration," an event hosted by the Nuclear Proliferation Prevention Project featuring four key speakers, Robert L. Gallucci, Victor Gilinsky, Alan J. Kuperman, and Edwin Lyman. Thursday, April 13, 11:00am - 3:00pm at LBJ Washington Center 1100 New York Ave. NW, Greyhound Suite (#290), Washington, DC 20005. Details here.