U.S. Nuclear Posturing Continues to Escalate

THAAD stirs up tensions - “The U.S. military started installing a controversial antimissile defense system in South Korea overnight Tuesday, triggering protests and sparking criticism that it was rushing to get the battery in place before the likely election of a president who opposes it,” writes Anna Fifield for The Washington Post. “The sudden and unannounced move came only six days after the U.S. military command in South Korea secured the land to deploy the system, known as the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD.”

--“Beijing has vehemently protested the deployment, apparently concerned that the system’s powerful radar could be used to keep tabs on China, and it has imposed painful economic boycotts on South Korean companies in response. ‘The deployment of THAAD in South Korea will destroy the strategic balance in the region and bring about a further increase in tensions,’ Geng Shuang, a spokesman for China’s Foreign Ministry, told reporters Wednesday in Beijing. ‘The Chinese side strongly urges the U.S. and South Korea to cancel the deployment and withdraw the equipment.’” Full article here.

Tweet - @38NorthNK: “Hey, US! Are you friends or occupying troops?" protests against THAAD continue in South Korea via @YonhapNews english.yonhapnews.co.kr/national/2017/…

See also - “Nuclear Mad Men” by Daryl Kimball for Arms Control Today here.

US Minuteman III test in Pacific - “An unarmed intercontinental ballistic missile was launched just after midnight Wednesday from Vandenberg Air Force Base as part of an operational test to show the country’s nuclear deterrent capability, according to the U.S. Air Force,” writes Veronica Rocha for the Los Angeles Times. “The missile, which was equipped with a non-explosive payload that recorded flight data, traveled 4,200 miles to a test range in Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands, according to the Air Force.”

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.

--“Col. Chris Moss, Vandenberg’s 30th Space Wing commander, said the test launch was ‘an important demonstration of our nation's nuclear deterrent capability.’” For the full article, click here.

Sec. Perry’s Cold War redux - I lived most of my adult life during the Cold War, and, throughout, I never lost sight of one overwhelming reality — at any time, the Cold War could turn hot, resulting in the extinction of our civilization. Now, inexplicably, we are recreating many of the conditions of the Cold War. In fact, I believe that, today, the likelihood of a nuclear catastrophe is actually greater than it was during the Cold War,” writes William Perry for The Hill. “We seem determined to replay the Cold War arms race, with costs estimated at more than $1 trillion — with predictably terrible dangers. Have we simply forgotten the immense dangers of the Cold War?”

--“A chilling return to Cold War nuclear dangers in addition to the more recent possibilities of nuclear terrorism and regional nuclear conflicts lead me to conclude that the likelihood of a nuclear catastrophe today is greater than it was during the Cold War. One thing is very clear: our policies are totally inadequate for dealing with these existential dangers. It should be the highest priority for this administration to develop policies that recognize this new reality, and then to devise new, robust programs that can mitigate them.” For the full article, click here.

Calm the beat - “The drums of war are threatening to drown out the whispers of diplomacy with North Korea. Lost in the reverberations is the fact that Pyongyang is willing to negotiate — though not on US terms,” writes Leon V. Sigal for The Boston Globe. He argues that Pyongyang’s strategy has always been to play superpowers off of each other to minimize dependence on any single country.

--“An improvement in US relations to reduce dependence on China remains Kim’s strategy. As initial steps, he may be willing to suspend his missile and nuclear programs in return for a scaling down of US joint exercises with South Korea and other reciprocal measures to address their security concerns. The only way out of this predicament is for Washington to resume talks with Pyongyang. And meanwhile, muffle those war drums.” For the full article, click here.

Tweet - @Cirincione: There are no military options in Korea. We should stop pretending that there are. http://www.rollcall.com/news/politics/north-korea-u-s-military-options

Still not the time to invest in blast doors - “North Korea will soon have the capability to launch an intercontinental ballistic missile that could reach the contiguous United States, foreign-policy analysts and government insiders say,” writes Evan Bush for The Seattle Times. “Seattle is viewed as a logical target because of the city’s dense population, booming high-tech industry, nearby military bases and relative proximity to the North Korean capital of Pyongyang.”

--But Joe Cirincione reassures: “‘Deterrence works for North Korea, like it does any country… You drop a bomb on Seattle, North Korea’s toast… “What would they gain by hitting Seattle? Why would they do this? The only thing you can come up with is madness. Is North Korea mad? … Ruthless, brutal, immoral … [but] all this crazy stuff Kim Jong Un is doing is serving his interest,’ Cirincione said of the North Korean autocrat and his desire to stay in power.” Full article here.

Tweet - @ColinKahl: As Trump uses tough talk & brinksmanship to pressure NK, it could produce leverage...or lead to miscalculation & war http://cnn.it/2pk7YZ5

Watch: Director of Programs at Ploughshares on DPRK discuss Trump’s approach on North Korea here.

See also - “The ‘axis of evil’ is back” by Aaron David Miller and Richard Sokolsky for CNN here.

Shackling Iranian nukes requires JCPOA “By undermining implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA — a viable, verified, and sound agreement that blocks Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons — President Trump risks removing the shackles from Tehran’s nuclear efforts,” writes Jon Wolfsthal for Defense One. “We’ve been down that road before; instead of preserving and strengthening the Agreed Framework with North Korea, Bush freed Pyongyang to keep working on nuclear weapons that could eventually reach American territory.”

--“If the Trump administration is to challenge Iran’s dangerous actions, it has to prioritize those steps it most wants to prevent Iran from taking. Going nuclear should rise to the top of that list, and that priority should inform both the tone and substance of the Iran policy review now underway. By keeping the JCPOA on track, the Trump administration can both take on Iran more effectively and prevent some future administration from dealing with a more dangerous nuclear-armed adversary, something many wish had happened under George W. Bush with respect to North Korea.” Full article here.

See also - “Iran Deal Is More Popular Than Ever, Poll Shows” by Cameron Easley for Morning Consult 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.

Quick Hits

--“Trump administration talks tough on North Korea, but frustrated lawmakers want details” by David Nakamura and Ed O'Keefe for the Washington Post here.

--Listen: “Special North Korea Briefing for US Senators” ft. Jon Wolfsthal for BBC Newshour here.

--“A Paradigm Shift in North Korea’s Ballistic Missile Development?” by Young-Keun Chang for 38North here.

--“Iran’s top diplomat says you should ignore Trump’s comments on the nuke deal” by Adam Taylor for The Washington Post here.

--“White House Intervened to Toughen Letter on Iran Nuclear Deal” by Jay Solomon and Carol E. Lee for The Wall Street Journal 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.

--Markey-Lieu Press Conference on the “Restricting First Use of Nuclear Weapons” Bill. Wednesday May 3, 2017 from 12:00p.m.-1:00p.m. in Dirksen Senate Office Building Room 562. Details and RSVP 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.

--“Debate: Modernization of Nuclear Missiles.” Hosted by Project on Nuclear Issues (PONI) and Ploughshares Fund. Featuring: Jon Wolfsthal, Christine Parthemore, General C. Robert Kehler (Ret.) and Heather Williams. Tuesday May 23, 2017, 4:30p.m.-7:00p.m. at CSIS Headquarters 1616 Rhode Island Ave NW, Washington, DC 20036. 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.

--“PONI 2017 Summer Conference.” The first conference of the 2017-2018 PONI Conference Series will be held June 21-22 at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Center for Global Security Research in Livermore, California. The two-day conference will feature a series presentations from emerging nuclear experts, a keynote address, tours of facilities at Lawrence Livermore, and a breakout discussion on nuclear terrorism adapted from a ministerial-level scenario that will led by Corey Hinderstein and Heather Looney from NNSA. The conference will be off-the-record. Details here.

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