From North Korea with Love

North Korea’s latest launch - On Sunday, North Korea executed its “first land-based test of an intermediate-range missile that, in the past, has been fired from a submarine,” writes Hilary Clarke for CNN. “The Pentagon has assessed that North Korea's weekend missile launch showed new capabilities... [noting] it flew farther than any previous North Korean tests, about 300 miles before dropping into the Sea of Japan.”

--“It was described by the Korean Central News Agency... as a ‘surface-to-surface medium long-range ballistic missile’ capable of carrying a nuclear warhead. But many experts think North Korea is far off from being able to put a nuclear warhead on its missiles... Pyongyang has carried out more than 20 ballistic missile tests from January through October 2016 in what is an ambitious testing program to develop nuclear capability.” Mark Fitzpatrick of the International Institute for Strategic Studies added, “If the ambitious testing rate continues, North Korea may have an effective nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) by the end of Trump's four-year term.” Full story here.

See also - For an in-depth look into North Korea’s ballistic missile advancements, see “North Korea displays ballistic missile improvements with test launch” by Mike Yeo for Defense News.

Calm rhetoric needed for DPRK - Ploughshares Fund President Joe Cirincione went on MSNBC with Kate Snow to discuss the mechanics of North Korea’s missile launch and how best to respond. Full segment also featuring Gordon Chang and Lucy Kafanov here.

Looking forward for Trump & DPRK - “North Korea’s launch of a ballistic missile this past weekend likely signals the beginning of the end of a four-month respite from its testing of ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons. It’s nothing to lose our heads about, not yet at least,” write Joel Wit and Richard Sokolsky for The Atlantic. “Assertions that this test poses the first big foreign-policy challenge for the Trump administration have a breathless quality: The missile flew roughly 300 miles before falling in the sea, well short of Japan’s territorial waters.”

--“If the president decides that he wants to continue business as usual with North Korea—or to intensify the Obama policy with more sanctions, threats, and pressure aimed at both Pyongyang and Beijing—he will be playing a losing hand. Instead, more progress is likely to be made if the deal-maker-in-chief follows his instincts to play the role of peacemaker rather than disrupter... A policy that emphasizes confrontation over dialogue will almost certainly provoke bigger and better North Korean missile and nuclear tests—including a North Korean ICBM and further work to develop a hydrogen bomb... [and] resorting to the failed policies of the past... will mean going down the same dead-end road as the Obama administration.” Full article here.

Event of the week - This Thursday at CSIS, bipartisan debate returns to Washington. Frank Rose and Thomas Karako will debate Ploughshares Fund President Joe Cirincione and Philip Coyle on the issue of European missile defense for NATO. Event details and livestream here.

Trump’s Kobayashi Maru - “Hopefully [President Trump] knows about the Kobayashi Maru — a test every Starfleet cadet takes to experience a no-win scenario. If unfamiliar with the Kobayashi Maru, Trump may soon learn the lesson a different way as he decides how to manage the persistent challenge of North Korea’s advancing nuclear and missile programs,” writes Jon Wolfsthal for Foreign Policy. “Sadly, and not for lack of looking, the choices available to the United States remain of the no-win variety... which is why Obama sought, without success, to rely on strategic patience.”

--“No one who worked on this issue for the past eight years is satisfied with the outcome, but Obama’s choice — given the ones above — was understandable... The Obama administration made great progress by keeping allies close and by drawing China in so that it saw North Korea, and not the United States, as the problem to be solved. Now, it seems, Trump — like Captain Kirk — hopes to reprogram the simulator and beat the Kobayashi Maru. But it is just as likely that he, and we, lose... I wish it were only a simulator, but the North Korea no-win scenario is already real.” Full article here.

Tweet - @nukes_of_hazard: UN Chief calls on North Korea to return to full #nuclear compliance and path of denuclearization

New START is working as intended - “President Donald Trump has already picked a fight with Russia’s Vladimir Putin over nuclear weapons and the New START treaty. It is a curious battle to choose. The treaty enjoys the overwhelming backing of America’s top national security leaders and military commanders,” writes Joe Cirincione for Defense One. “Trump reportedly didn’t know what the treaty was... To back out now would uncap the two largest nuclear arsenals in the world, worsening a burgeoning new arms race. Even more worrying, it could leave Russia’s arsenal dangerously uncounted.”

--“Here’s the reality: ‘The New START Treaty has the unanimous support of America’s military leadership — to include the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, all of the service chiefs, and the commander of the U.S. Strategic Command, the organization responsible for our strategic nuclear deterrent,’ said then-Secretary of Defense Robert Gates in 2010, who served under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama… Before Trump turns his tweets about a new nuclear arms race into a terrifying new policy, the new president might want to listen to the people who actually know what they are talking about.” Full story here.

See also - “Exclusive: In call with Putin, Trump denounced Obama-era nuclear arms treaty - sources,” by Jonathan Landay and David Rohde for Reuters.

Fmr. SecDef on Trump’s criticism of New START - “Former Defense Secretary William Perry on Friday said it would be a ‘tragic mistake’ if President Donald Trump did not seize on a reported offer by Russian President Vladimir Putin to extend the 2011 New START Treaty to reduce nuclear arms,” writes Bryan Bender for POLITICO. Perry told POLITICO, "The treaty calls for equal numbers of weapons and a verification process that, if anything, is harder on Russia than the U.S… It would be a tragic mistake if we failed to take advantage of Russia’s offer to extend the treaty.” Full story here.

Nuclear deterrence 101 for Trump - Last month, Mikhail Gorbachev “urged the United Nations Security Council to ‘adopt a resolution stating that nuclear war is unacceptable and must never be fought,’” writes Bruce Blair for POLITICO. “To almost everyone, this call from a far-sighted leader may seem self-evident, but what about President Donald Trump? Trump has suggested he is willing to launch a new nuclear arms race… In his phone call with Vladimir Putin last month, Trump reportedly rebuffed the Russian president’s apparent offer to extend the New START agreement that otherwise expires in 2021.”

--“Trump needs a crash course on the probable consequences of a nuclear exchange with our nuclear rivals, especially Russia because of its vast arsenal… Even if the United States could surreptitiously raise its nuclear readiness to a war footing and launch a surprise, full-scale nuclear strike... the U.S. would suffer massive casualties. At least 145 Russian warheads could be delivered by surviving Russian mobile nuclear missiles alone, according to a new study by Global Zero. If those missiles were allocated one to every American city with a population above 172,000, nearly 150 cities would be utterly destroyed in retaliation. Twenty-two million people would die.” Full story here.

Persuading Americans on nuclear policy - President Trump “has signaled a foreign policy that breaks from decades of tradition — questioning alliances including NATO, arguing with allies such as Australia, and advocating an expansion of U.S. nuclear arms, among other things. Ultimately, many longtime foreign policy experts fear that he could undo an entire post-Cold War order and destabilize the international system,” write Christopher Gelpi and Elias Assaf for The Washington Post.

--To change U.S. nuclear policy, “Trump may need the support not only of other political leaders but of the American public itself. Our research suggests that his ability to shape public opinion may be quite constrained... Trump seeks a dramatic change in U.S. grand strategy, but sustaining policies that are unpopular will likely prove difficult over the long haul… Nuclear proliferation and the first use of nuclear weapons are not popular with Americans, and Trump’s rhetoric appears — at least thus far — not to change anyone’s minds.” Full results of the study here.

Tweet - @SecDef19: Looking back at Cold War with the wisdom of hindsight: neither side was planning a nuclear attack-the danger was blundering into nuclear war

Iran (still) abiding by JCPOA - “Iran is implementing the deal on its nuclear programme agreed with world powers, the head of the U.N. atomic energy watchdog said on Tuesday, amid concerns the United States will try to alter the terms,” writes Alexander Cornwall for Reuters. “Trump's administration is considering insisting the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) toughen its policing of Iran's compliance, including demanding access to military sites, sources have told Reuters.”

--“But the new administration has so far not contacted the IAEA, the U.N. nuclear watchdog responsible for verifying Iran's adherence to the deal formally called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano said... [He added,] ‘Nuclear activities by Iran is reduced and so this is a net gain. What is important is to continue to implement [the deal]... There is nothing political that will change our implementation.’” Full story here.

Tweet - @Livableworld: "This is madness" – nuclear non-proliferation expert on Republican efforts to defund prevention of nuclear testing

GOP takes aim at CTBT - “Two close congressional allies of President Donald Trump have proposed to defund the international organization that monitors and helps to prevent nuclear-weapons tests,” writes David Axe for The Daily Beast. “S. 332, the bill filed by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR), would ‘restrict funding for the preparatory commission for the comprehensive nuclear-test-ban treaty.’ Rep. Joe Wilson of South Carolina, also a Republican, has proposed a companion resolution.”

--“The effect of the bill... would be to strip away potentially all of the roughly $30 million the United States provides annually to the Vienna-based Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization.” Hans Kristensen, a nuclear expert at the Federation of American Scientists commented, “Any move by the United States toward reducing commitment to the CTBT or resuming nuclear testing would without doubt trigger similar actions in other nuclear weapon states... Such a development would undermine U.S. national security and international efforts to restrain nuclear weapons development.” Full story here.

No-first-use isn’t partisan - “Martin Luther King Jr. famously stated, ‘Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men.’ Nearly 50 years after Dr. King’s assassination, his words continue to ring true,” writes John Tierney for The Hill. “A quintessential example is the U.S. nuclear weapons arsenal... The existence of a bloated nuclear arsenal is problematic. But even more worrisome is the current policy in place for authorizing a nuclear strike.”

--“Legally, the president of the United States has the sole authority to launch nuclear weapons... This means that President... could simply wake up tomorrow and order a nuclear attack. Congress couldn’t stop him... It is time for Congress to formally retain its war-making prerogative. Senator Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Representative Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) recently introduced a bill that would bring democracy to nuclear weapons policy... Importantly, the concern is not partisan. The bill was first introduced in September 2016, at a time when a Democrat controlled the Oval Office and the Democratic candidate was widely considered to be the clear frontrunner for the presidency.” Full story here.

Quick Hits:

--“Tear-Down Mode,” by Michael Krepon for Arms Control Wonk.

--“REPORT: Estimated U.S. Fatalities from a Russian Nuclear Retaliation,” by Jennifer Knox and Jessica Sleight for Global Zero.

--“Michael Flynn Resigns as National Security Adviser,” by Maggie Haberman, Matt Apuzzo, Glenn Thrush and Matthew Rosenberg for The New York Times.

--“Merkel forced to deny Germany planning to lead a European nuclear superpower,” by Justing Huggler for The Telegraph.

--“Pentagon grants Navy waiver for not-yet-mature technology on Columbia-class submarine,” by Jason Sherman for Inside Defense.

--“‘Nuclear football’ photo taken at Trump’s golf resort puts the Pentagon in an awkward position,” by Dan Lamothe for The Washington Post.


--“Debate: European Missile Defenses for NATO,” hosted by CSIS. February 16 from 4:30-7:30pm at Center for Strategic and International Studies, 1616 Rhode Island Ave. NW, Washington. Details here.

--"Nuclear Early Warning: The President's 3 AM Phone Call," with Jaganath Sankaran. The event will be held on February 23, 2017, from 12:00p.m. to 1:15 p.m., at the Center for International Security Studies at Maryland, University of Maryland, 4113 Van Munching Hall, College Park, MD. More information here.

--“Defending Our Values, Fighting For Our Future,” J Street’s 2017 National Conference, from February 25 to 28, 2017. Washington Convention Center, 801 Mt. Vernon Place NW, Washington. More information here.

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