Showing posts tagged as "nuclear program"

Showing posts tagged nuclear program

28 Feb
Cross Purposes: Beijing, Washington and the Korean Peninsula | Daniel Pinkston and Yanmei Xie
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s recent East Asia tour raised the prospect that the Six-Party Talks – in the deep freeze for over five years – could soon reconvene. After conversing with Chinese officials, Kerry spoke positively of their promise to rid North Korea of nuclear weapons. Kerry announced in Beijing that “China could not have more forcefully reiterated its commitment” to the goal of denuclearising North Korea. In the background was hope that an inter-Korean thaw might be underway, with the two Koreas agreeing to hold the first reunion of separated family members in over three years.
But Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s own statement, while forceful, was far less specific. “China will never allow chaos or war on the Korean Peninsula”. Kerry had said the two sides agreed that the North “must take meaningful, concrete, and irreversible steps towards verifiable denuclearisation, and it needs to begin now”. Wang stressed that the “top priority at the moment is to grasp the opportunity and resume talks”.
Clearly the U.S. and China have a mismatch in priorities. Even though both posit denuclearisation as a goal, Beijing and Washington have contradicting prescriptions. The U.S. employs diplomatic isolation, economic sanctions, containment, and deterrence to pressure Pyongyang to denuclearise. Many in Washington believe Beijing holds the real key given the North’s economic dependence on China.  But China is reluctant to take any coercive action that might destabilise the Kim regime and possibly change a delicate geopolitical balance. So China utilises diplomatic engagement and economic cooperation as instruments with which to encourage the North Korean leadership to denuclearise, but it is willing to live with a de facto nuclear North Korea in exchange for stability in the present. Kerry himself acknowledged this when he said the Chinese “will not allow a nuclear program” in the North and added: “over the long run”.
Certainly a public consensus is emerging in China that believes Beijing’s unconditional support has led to some excessive North Korean behaviour contrary to China’s interests. Xi Jinping’s administration is trying to re-set boundaries. China almost certainly would deliver a harsh reprimand if North Korea were to conduct another nuclear or missile test, or start a military skirmish with the South, for example. But the red lines that would trigger serious punishment – and what the punishment would be – remain unclear.
Both the U.S. and China wish to avoid a war on the peninsula and therefore share an interest in managing Pyongyang’s behaviour. However – and here’s the fundamental difference in viewpoints – the risks and costs associated with managing Pyongyang are qualitatively different from those associated with the actions that might be required for denuclearisation. Pyongyang’s “normal” intransigence can be countered with short-term, easily reversible steps such as temporarily slowing down economic cooperation or tightening border inspections. Making Pyongyang abandon its nuclear weapons almost certainly would require more drastic actions, some of which could threaten Beijing’s bottom lines of no instability, no sudden regime change, no unified U.S. ally on China’s border. Managing Pyongyang’s behaviour helps maintain the status quo; denuclearising North Korea risks changing the status quo.
Setting the table to resume the Six-Party Talks appears to be good enough for China. The framework allows Beijing to play its preferred role of mediator, garnering good-will for its efforts while ensuring minimum costs to its relations with the parties involved (the U.S., both Koreas, Japan and Russia). The Chinese consensus is that the North Korean nuclear issue is ultimately a “U.S.-DPRK” problem that can be solved if the two parties would only sit down and hammer out an agreement, so Beijing may well feel it has done its part if it can get the parties to reconvene talks. Having the parties at the table also gives Beijing a structure for monitoring and managing tensions.
The barriers to talks therefore remain significant. Washington wants Pyongyang to take verifiable and irreversible steps towards dismantling its nuclear program, including implementing its previous denuclearisation commitment. China, however, wants the U.S. to lower its threshold for talks, or in Wang Yi’s words, “show flexibility”.
U.S. policymakers very likely see the limits of cooperating with Beijing, but at this stage choose to paper over differences in public. Lauding China’s commitment to denuclearise the North, Kerry also could be aiming to bind Beijing to a position it might find difficult to abandon. But Beijing has its own ideas. China’s stated goal actually is “the denuclearisation of the peninsula”, a nod to Pyongyang’s assertion that Washington’s nuclear umbrella must be retracted from Seoul.
In short, there is little sign of Beijing moving towards Washington’s pressure-driven approach in the absence of Pyongyang crossing China’s red lines. Evidence suggests quite the opposite. On the heels of Kerry’s visit to Beijing, Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin travelled to Pyongyang where he reiterated China’s desire to foster the “healthy and stable development of bilateral relations”, including by “respecting each other’s interests and expanding pragmatic cooperation”.  China may be willing to apply pressure on North Korea to return to the Six-Party Talks. But when the table is set, Beijing will likely congratulate itself for fulfilling its responsibilities, and the ball will then be in Washington’s court as to whether talks alone are sufficient.
crisisgroupblogs.org
PHOTO: REUTERS/Diego Azubel/Pool

Cross Purposes: Beijing, Washington and the Korean Peninsula | Daniel Pinkston and Yanmei Xie

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s recent East Asia tour raised the prospect that the Six-Party Talks – in the deep freeze for over five years – could soon reconvene. After conversing with Chinese officials, Kerry spoke positively of their promise to rid North Korea of nuclear weapons. Kerry announced in Beijing that “China could not have more forcefully reiterated its commitment” to the goal of denuclearising North Korea. In the background was hope that an inter-Korean thaw might be underway, with the two Koreas agreeing to hold the first reunion of separated family members in over three years.

But Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s own statement, while forceful, was far less specific. “China will never allow chaos or war on the Korean Peninsula”. Kerry had said the two sides agreed that the North “must take meaningful, concrete, and irreversible steps towards verifiable denuclearisation, and it needs to begin now”. Wang stressed that the “top priority at the moment is to grasp the opportunity and resume talks”.

Clearly the U.S. and China have a mismatch in priorities. Even though both posit denuclearisation as a goal, Beijing and Washington have contradicting prescriptions. The U.S. employs diplomatic isolation, economic sanctions, containment, and deterrence to pressure Pyongyang to denuclearise. Many in Washington believe Beijing holds the real key given the North’s economic dependence on China.  But China is reluctant to take any coercive action that might destabilise the Kim regime and possibly change a delicate geopolitical balance. So China utilises diplomatic engagement and economic cooperation as instruments with which to encourage the North Korean leadership to denuclearise, but it is willing to live with a de facto nuclear North Korea in exchange for stability in the present. Kerry himself acknowledged this when he said the Chinese “will not allow a nuclear program” in the North and added: “over the long run”.

Certainly a public consensus is emerging in China that believes Beijing’s unconditional support has led to some excessive North Korean behaviour contrary to China’s interests. Xi Jinping’s administration is trying to re-set boundaries. China almost certainly would deliver a harsh reprimand if North Korea were to conduct another nuclear or missile test, or start a military skirmish with the South, for example. But the red lines that would trigger serious punishment – and what the punishment would be – remain unclear.

Both the U.S. and China wish to avoid a war on the peninsula and therefore share an interest in managing Pyongyang’s behaviour. However – and here’s the fundamental difference in viewpoints – the risks and costs associated with managing Pyongyang are qualitatively different from those associated with the actions that might be required for denuclearisation. Pyongyang’s “normal” intransigence can be countered with short-term, easily reversible steps such as temporarily slowing down economic cooperation or tightening border inspections. Making Pyongyang abandon its nuclear weapons almost certainly would require more drastic actions, some of which could threaten Beijing’s bottom lines of no instability, no sudden regime change, no unified U.S. ally on China’s border. Managing Pyongyang’s behaviour helps maintain the status quo; denuclearising North Korea risks changing the status quo.

Setting the table to resume the Six-Party Talks appears to be good enough for China. The framework allows Beijing to play its preferred role of mediator, garnering good-will for its efforts while ensuring minimum costs to its relations with the parties involved (the U.S., both Koreas, Japan and Russia). The Chinese consensus is that the North Korean nuclear issue is ultimately a “U.S.-DPRK” problem that can be solved if the two parties would only sit down and hammer out an agreement, so Beijing may well feel it has done its part if it can get the parties to reconvene talks. Having the parties at the table also gives Beijing a structure for monitoring and managing tensions.

The barriers to talks therefore remain significant. Washington wants Pyongyang to take verifiable and irreversible steps towards dismantling its nuclear program, including implementing its previous denuclearisation commitment. China, however, wants the U.S. to lower its threshold for talks, or in Wang Yi’s words, “show flexibility”.

U.S. policymakers very likely see the limits of cooperating with Beijing, but at this stage choose to paper over differences in public. Lauding China’s commitment to denuclearise the North, Kerry also could be aiming to bind Beijing to a position it might find difficult to abandon. But Beijing has its own ideas. China’s stated goal actually is “the denuclearisation of the peninsula”, a nod to Pyongyang’s assertion that Washington’s nuclear umbrella must be retracted from Seoul.

In short, there is little sign of Beijing moving towards Washington’s pressure-driven approach in the absence of Pyongyang crossing China’s red lines. Evidence suggests quite the opposite. On the heels of Kerry’s visit to Beijing, Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin travelled to Pyongyang where he reiterated China’s desire to foster the “healthy and stable development of bilateral relations”, including by “respecting each other’s interests and expanding pragmatic cooperation”.  China may be willing to apply pressure on North Korea to return to the Six-Party Talks. But when the table is set, Beijing will likely congratulate itself for fulfilling its responsibilities, and the ball will then be in Washington’s court as to whether talks alone are sufficient.

crisisgroupblogs.org

PHOTO: REUTERS/Diego Azubel/Pool

11 Feb
North Korea confirms third nuclear test | Leo Lewis
North Korea has detonated a seven-kiloton nuclear device in the northeast of the country, raising military alert levels in the region and defying pleas for restraint by China, its closest ally.
Confirming that it had conducted a test in a “safe manner”, Pyongyang said on Tuesday afternoon that it had successfully miniaturised a nuclear device – a claim that could portend the ability to mount a warhead on a long-range missile.
Hours before the nuclear test, North Korea’s politburo said that it would continue test-firing “powerful long-range rockets”. The regime’s National Defence Commission said last month that the United States remained its prime target as it developed nuclear weapons and long range-rocket technologies.
The state news agency KCNA, said that the test had been carried out “as part of practical measures of counter-action to defend the country’s security and sovereignty in the face of the ferocious hostile act of the US which wantonly violated the DPRK’s legitimate right to launch a satellite for peaceful purposes.”
The report said that the test involved a smaller and lighter atomic bomb than in previous tests, but that it had “great explosive power”.
FULL ARTICLE (The Times)
Photo: rapidtravelchai/flickr

North Korea confirms third nuclear test | Leo Lewis

North Korea has detonated a seven-kiloton nuclear device in the northeast of the country, raising military alert levels in the region and defying pleas for restraint by China, its closest ally.

Confirming that it had conducted a test in a “safe manner”, Pyongyang said on Tuesday afternoon that it had successfully miniaturised a nuclear device – a claim that could portend the ability to mount a warhead on a long-range missile.

Hours before the nuclear test, North Korea’s politburo said that it would continue test-firing “powerful long-range rockets”. The regime’s National Defence Commission said last month that the United States remained its prime target as it developed nuclear weapons and long range-rocket technologies.

The state news agency KCNA, said that the test had been carried out “as part of practical measures of counter-action to defend the country’s security and sovereignty in the face of the ferocious hostile act of the US which wantonly violated the DPRK’s legitimate right to launch a satellite for peaceful purposes.”

The report said that the test involved a smaller and lighter atomic bomb than in previous tests, but that it had “great explosive power”.

FULL ARTICLE (The Times)

Photo: rapidtravelchai/flickr

16 Sep
World Must Face Down Byungjin Line | Chris Green
To a proportion of experts and analysts, the Byungjin Line of simultaneous nuclear and people’s economic development, as announced by Kim Jong Eun at the end of March, represents a transformative change in Pyongyang’s approach to politics both at home and abroad.
However, to others, a group that includes Dr. Daniel Pinkston of the International Crisis Group, the new line is a dangerous step, forming part of North Korea’s long-term strategy to obtain acceptance as a nuclear power through a form of “India-type exceptionalism.” 
FULL ARTICLE (Daily NK)
Photo: The Official CTBTO Photostream/Flickr

World Must Face Down Byungjin Line | Chris Green

To a proportion of experts and analysts, the Byungjin Line of simultaneous nuclear and people’s economic development, as announced by Kim Jong Eun at the end of March, represents a transformative change in Pyongyang’s approach to politics both at home and abroad.

However, to others, a group that includes Dr. Daniel Pinkston of the International Crisis Group, the new line is a dangerous step, forming part of North Korea’s long-term strategy to obtain acceptance as a nuclear power through a form of “India-type exceptionalism.” 

FULL ARTICLE (Daily NK)

Photo: The Official CTBTO Photostream/Flickr

19 Aug
What are uranium centrifuges and should we worry? | Matt Kwong
Iran’s outgoing nuclear chief told state media this weekend the Islamic republic’s nuclear program has amassed 18,000 uranium centrifuges. While Iran maintains its atomic energy program is peaceful, America and Israel worry that scientists will make bombs.
What is uranium?
Uranium is a heavy metal used to fuel both nuclear power reactors and nuclear weapons, explained Dr. Ali Vaez, senior Iran analyst for the International Crisis Group in Washington. However, he said, uranium on its own is “completely useless” unless an active element — the isotope uranium-235 — can be separated from it through an “enrichment” process.
FULL ARTICLE (MSN News)
Photo: US Department of Energy/Wikimedia Commons

What are uranium centrifuges and should we worry? | Matt Kwong

Iran’s outgoing nuclear chief told state media this weekend the Islamic republic’s nuclear program has amassed 18,000 uranium centrifuges. While Iran maintains its atomic energy program is peaceful, America and Israel worry that scientists will make bombs.

What is uranium?

Uranium is a heavy metal used to fuel both nuclear power reactors and nuclear weapons, explained Dr. Ali Vaez, senior Iran analyst for the International Crisis Group in Washington. However, he said, uranium on its own is “completely useless” unless an active element — the isotope uranium-235 — can be separated from it through an “enrichment” process.

FULL ARTICLE (MSN News)

Photo: US Department of Energy/Wikimedia Commons

3 Jul
China’s North Korea Policy: Backtracking from Sunnylands?| Stephanie Kleine-Ahlbrandt
In recent months, China has affected a sterner disposition toward North Korea, reflecting growing frustration with its errant neighbor. But despite Chinese President Xi Jinping’s stronger rhetoric on denuclearization during his summit discussions with US President Barack Obama at Sunnylands, Beijing’s policy is still based upon the strategic priorities of, in descending order, “no war, no instability, no nukes” (不战、不乱、无核). As soon as Xi made his statement, Chinese experts began to backpedal. Chinese government analysts insist that Beijing has not changed its priorities with regard to North Korea and are surprised that outsiders believe otherwise.
FULL ARTICLE (38 North)
Photo: dcmaster/Flickr

China’s North Korea Policy: Backtracking from Sunnylands?| Stephanie Kleine-Ahlbrandt

In recent months, China has affected a sterner disposition toward North Korea, reflecting growing frustration with its errant neighbor. But despite Chinese President Xi Jinping’s stronger rhetoric on denuclearization during his summit discussions with US President Barack Obama at Sunnylands, Beijing’s policy is still based upon the strategic priorities of, in descending order, “no war, no instability, no nukes” (不战、不乱、无核). As soon as Xi made his statement, Chinese experts began to backpedal. Chinese government analysts insist that Beijing has not changed its priorities with regard to North Korea and are surprised that outsiders believe otherwise.

FULL ARTICLE (38 North)

Photo: dcmaster/Flickr

7 May
Crisis Group’s Senior Iran Adviser Ali Vaez’s recent piece for the Arms Control Association: “Iran’s Nuclear Program and the Sanctions Siege" (paywall)
Photo: Alex Jagendorf/Flickr

Crisis Group’s Senior Iran Adviser Ali Vaez’s recent piece for the Arms Control Association: “Iran’s Nuclear Program and the Sanctions Siege" (paywall)

Photo: Alex Jagendorf/Flickr

18 Mar

North East Asia Deputy Program Director Daniel Pinkston speaks to The Telegraph in “North Korea: Kim Jong-un ‘emboldened’ by nuclear programme”.

Will China rein in North Korea? | CBS News
By Shannon van Sant
In response to new United Nations sanctions, North Korea has canceled the armistice that ended the Korean War, ended a non-aggression pact with Seoul and cut off a military hotline meant to defuse incidents along the Korean border. North Korea’s actions have been coupled with verbal threats to “miserably destroy” U.S. troops and launch “pre-emptive nuclear strikes” and “final destruction” of Seoul.
As Pyongyang’s longtime ally and next-door neighbor, China could play a role in pressuring the regime, but how much influence Beijing has is unclear. China supported the last round of sanctions from the U.N., which places new limits on North Korean trade, banking and travel.
"The resolution is a strong one," Stephanie Kleine-Ahlbrandt of the International Crisis Group told CBS News. "It takes sanctions a step further than the previous resolutions. The question will always be the extent to which we see implementation."
FULL ARTICLE (CBS News)
Photo: Joseph A Ferris III/Flickr

Will China rein in North Korea? | CBS News

By Shannon van Sant

In response to new United Nations sanctions, North Korea has canceled the armistice that ended the Korean War, ended a non-aggression pact with Seoul and cut off a military hotline meant to defuse incidents along the Korean border. North Korea’s actions have been coupled with verbal threats to “miserably destroy” U.S. troops and launch “pre-emptive nuclear strikes” and “final destruction” of Seoul.

As Pyongyang’s longtime ally and next-door neighbor, China could play a role in pressuring the regime, but how much influence Beijing has is unclear. China supported the last round of sanctions from the U.N., which places new limits on North Korean trade, banking and travel.

"The resolution is a strong one," Stephanie Kleine-Ahlbrandt of the International Crisis Group told CBS News. "It takes sanctions a step further than the previous resolutions. The question will always be the extent to which we see implementation."

FULL ARTICLE (CBS News)

Photo: Joseph A Ferris III/Flickr

15 Mar

Daniel Pinkston, North East Asia Project Deputy Director, breaks down North Korea’s risky nuclear brinkmanship and how the international community should respond.

11 Mar
Expanded UN sanctions on North Korea prompt rage from Pyongyang | Guardian
By Tania Branigan
North Korea has said it is cancelling a hotline and non-aggression pact with the South after the United Nations security council unanimously backed a toughened sanctions regime over the country’s third nuclear test.
Pyongyang issued a series of warnings in the run-up to Thursday’s vote, and in the hours before the council met it raised the threat of a pre-emptive nuclear strike on the United States. Experts point out it has a history of bellicose statements without matching action, and do not believe it capable of mounting a nuclear warhead on a missile that could reach the US, but expect the North to take action of some kind in response.
Shortly after the resolution was agreed the North’s Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea, the body dealing with cross-border affairs on the peninsula, announced the cancellation of the hotline and non-aggression pact, repeating its threat to retaliate with “crushing strikes” if enemies trespass on to its territory and to cancel nuclear disarmament agreements with the South.
FULL ARTICLE (The Guardian)
Photo: (stephan)/Flickr

Expanded UN sanctions on North Korea prompt rage from Pyongyang | Guardian

By Tania Branigan

North Korea has said it is cancelling a hotline and non-aggression pact with the South after the United Nations security council unanimously backed a toughened sanctions regime over the country’s third nuclear test.

Pyongyang issued a series of warnings in the run-up to Thursday’s vote, and in the hours before the council met it raised the threat of a pre-emptive nuclear strike on the United States. Experts point out it has a history of bellicose statements without matching action, and do not believe it capable of mounting a nuclear warhead on a missile that could reach the US, but expect the North to take action of some kind in response.

Shortly after the resolution was agreed the North’s Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea, the body dealing with cross-border affairs on the peninsula, announced the cancellation of the hotline and non-aggression pact, repeating its threat to retaliate with “crushing strikes” if enemies trespass on to its territory and to cancel nuclear disarmament agreements with the South.

FULL ARTICLE (The Guardian)

Photo: (stephan)/Flickr