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Proliferation Press

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

11-5 Update: The Other Proliferation Press: Morocco Meeting of Evolving Nuclear Terrorism Initiative Wraps Up

s8603256_4662While North Korea's return to six-party talks dominates today's proliferation press, another important development in America's counter-proliferation strategy is wrapping up today.

The Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism (GICNT), a US-Russian led program launched in 2005, is finishing a two-day summit in Rabat, Morocco.

Morocco officially joined the 12 other members of the soon-to-be enacted program, becoming the first predominantly Arab nation to join the GICNT.

The Washington Post reports on the event:

Joseph [U.S. Under Secretary of State for Arms Control] also said that participant states should work together to deny terrorists access to nuclear or radioactive materials, prevent nuclear terrorism, and respond in case of a nuclear attack by terrorists.

s8603256_4662After this meeting, he said, we would expand the number of countries willing to endorse the initiative's principles and carry out necessary preventative measures and proactive actions, including enacting or changing relevant laws to prosecute nuclear terrorists.

Joseph also said that the project would be modeled on the three-year-old Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) that began with a small group of partners and now is backed by 80 countries who want to prevent the spread of weapons of mass destruction.

PSI and GICNT represent the Bush administration's attempts to address the problems nuclear proliferation and terrorism.

Instead of working on the international level, starting at the Non-Proliferation Treaty or the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), PSI and GICNT represent a hegemonic approach to arms-control: with the US and Russia unveiling programs and then pushing for greater membership.

Such an approach limits dissent (from countries like India, Pakistan, Israel or Iran), but can prove difficult to administer without board international support.

As such PSI has a mixed record: rapidly gaining members, but still having to define its enforcement authority.

PINR analyst Dr. Harsh V. Pant contended his in piece, ''The Demise of the Global Arms Control Regime'', that arms-control agreements work best when seen as mutually beneficial-- not attempts by major states to hem in other states.

Pant writes,

For long, major powers have deftly used various arms control provisions to constrain the strategic autonomy of other states in the international system. India's nuclear tests were the first direct challenge to the great powers and the result has been a complete overhaul of the international security environment. The demise of the international arms control regime is a small part of that overhaul.

India has always been dissatisfied with the global non-proliferation and arms control regime because it constrained its autonomy to make foreign policy decisions as dictated by national interests. It argued that an inequitable regime that gave only a few countries the permanent right to nuclear weapons and denied others this right was inherently unstable. It is this fundamental instability that has come to haunt the global nuclear order today.

A new global security architecture is needed if there is to be an attempt to tackle the emerging problem of proliferation and terrorism since the old security structure has largely failed.

PSI and GICNT show great importance of quiet diplomacy in securing international security. While the Bush administration's regime-change approach may cause headaches for years to come, ensuring these programs are capable and effective by the administration's end would be a valiant and much-needed service to the American public.

The challenge for the Bush administration will be to make these programs durable, able to bring short-term and long-term protections from the proliferation or nuclear materials and weapons.


Middle East News Online, Canada

"This is designed to build a partnership of countries that are committed to countering nuclear terrorism." U.S. Undersecretary of State Robert Joseph said. "We do know that nonstate actors -- terrorists -- are very interested in acquiring this type of capability and would not hesitate to use it."

The meeting stemmed from a G8 summit in July 2006 that established a framework to prevent nuclear insurgency strikes. Officials said the summit in Rabat discussed security improvements at civilian nuclear facilities, investigations of suspected nuclear smuggling and enhancement of accounting procedures for nuclear and radioactive substances.

Other Links of Note

13 Nations Meet on Nuclear Containment. John Throne, Associated Press.

State Department Press Release. October 26th, 2006.

Persian Gulf exercise, Morocco meeting advance U.S.-initiated anti-proliferation project. Herald International Tribune, Associated Press.

Biography: Robert Joseph, Under Secretary on Arms Control. Right Web. (Views presented are not endorsed by Proliferation Press)

S. Korea's fear of clash with North is absurd. The Jerusalem Post. Associated Press.

Monday, October 23, 2006

“WWII Is Over”; And So Should U.S. Hopes for Japanese Nukes: Responding to the Latest Neo-Con Insight of Charles Krauthammer

Charles Krauthammer, the consummate neo-con pundit provocateur, writes a beautifully crafted, but logically murky Friday op-ed in last week’s Washington Post.

The argument? A little foggy.

But one thing’s clear: Krauthammer’s murky call for Japanese high-stakes, quasi nuclear-brinkmanship against China not only stands as one of his less articulate op-eds, but perhaps his most dangerous.

But, first: What is Krauthammer saying? I offer two possibilities:

Option A: Japan Should Go Nuclear

“The American reaction to such talk is knee-jerk opposition. Like those imperial Japanese soldiers discovered holed up on some godforsaken Pacific island decades after World War II, we continue to act as if we, too, never received news of the Japanese surrender. We applaud the Japanese for continuing their adherence to the MacArthur constitution that forever denies Japan the status of Great Power replete with commensurate military force.”

Option B: A Japanese Threat of Nuclear Weaponization Would Compel China to Put the Pressure on North Korea

Japan's threatening to go nuclear would alter that calculation. It might even persuade China to squeeze Kim Jong Il as a way to prevent Japan from going nuclear. The Japan card remains the only one that carries even the remote possibility of reversing North Korea's nuclear program.”

Krauthammer rarely dishes up such muddled reasoning. But, putting on my best George Bailey impersonation, I licensed Krauthammer the following hybrid thesis:

Japan has every right to go nuclear; and if Japan threatened such an action, China would be spurred into better containing North Korea’s nuclear threat—which would then eliminate the actual need of Japanese nuclear weaponization (not that there’s anything wrong with that).

Whoa—Krauthammer. What’s up with the 2004 Kerry-esque incoherence?

Just call it what it is: a nuclear-charged, diplomatic gambit.

Oh, because then everyone reading it would rapidly turn the page.

Would China’s reaction be that restrained? And is a Japanese threat of nuclear weapons really so inconsequential to other world players?

So, with this in mind, let’s consider the risks a Krauthammer’s Nuclear Japan Strategy may pose.

Risk #1: China, fearing further US-Japanese aggression, seeks to modernize its nuclear deterrent and embraces North Korea as its most reliable (if annoying) friend in the region.

Risk #2: Japan threatening to build nuclear weapons would really kill the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

Note #1
: Krauthammer evokes the “fact” that all great powers have gone nuclear decades ago. Here he forgets about Germany.

Japan and Germany are critical to maintaining the NPT: A document that seeks to, however imperfectly, 1) limit the desire of states for nuclear weapons and 2) build international support for counter-proliferation.

Risk #3
: America, again, looks like a hypocrite. Except this time it looses any international support for its counter-proliferation stance towards Iran.

Note #2: America continuously argues that Iran and North Korea, by virtue of their signatures of the NPT, must continue to renounce nuclear weapons. Yet, if America encourages (a loyal ally) Japan to junk the treaty, how can America have any authority to tell other nations they do not have the right to go nuclear.

And don’t forget, the U.S. already was pushing its luck with the India nuclear deal.

Krauthammer would no doubt evoke the need for “case by case”, not “rule-based” nuclear diplomacy. And, in doing so, would point to Japan’s stable, status-quo, democratic government as earning it the right to go nuclear. But any bright lines distinctions would be turned to mush the next day.


Because, as Krauthammer concedes, this is about American interests first and foremost—not the concerns of counter-proliferation or diplomatic consistency.

If Krauthammer can see this, I think the rest of the international community can as well.

But such concerns are those of weak-kneed, appeasing, and amoral internationalists.

Unfortunately these concerns come with hard-elbowed, firm, and moral consequences. But, in Krauthammer’s defense, neo-cons have come to admit their weakness at consequence comprehension.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Proliferation Press News-Round Up: Japan to go Nuclear?

Will Japan go nuclear? Today most news-wires say no. But what does this mean? And how is Japan responding to the North Korean tests?

Foreign Policy places Japan at the top of their The List: The Next Nuclear States. Why? Japan’s long-lasting technological ability to produce a nuclear arsenal combined with its new found fear of a nuclear North Korea.

But isn't the Japanese public extremely pacifist and anti-nuclear?

Martin Flecker of the New York Times investigates the effect of North Korea’s nuclear test on Japanese public opinion:

If the North did explode a nuclear device, analysts said the effects on Japanese public opinion may take time to appear. That’s what happened after the North’s 1998 test firing a multistage Taepodong 2 missile over Japan. While Japan’s initial reaction was muted, public opinion ended up moving dramatically in favor of building a stronger defense.

In the following years, that allowed Japan to begin adding weapons that just a few years before would have been unthinkable. Among these were Japan’s first spy satellite, a troop transport ship now under construction that experts say could serve as a small aircraft carrier and aerial tankers that would allow Japanese fighter planes to reach North Korea and other countries.

Kyoko Altman’s Washington Post blog, Japan’s Exploding Nationalism, seems to agree with Flecker-- downplaying the recent rhetorical cooling of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (who earlier had stated support for a more militarized and nuclear Japan). Painting Japanese PM Shinzo Abe's recent gestures of reconciliation with China and South Korea as superficial, Altman concludes her post:

When the Korean Central News Agency issued the statement saying the nuclear test "greatly encouraged" those who "have wished to have a powerful self-reliant defense capability" it could also have been speaking for Japan. One crucial difference: If the world's second largest economy resolves to build a nuclear weapon, there will be no need to question whether it will work.

But the Los Angeles Times offers a more nuanced assessment of Japan’s nuclear posture. Rather than looking Japanese security in a nuclear vacuum, Bruce Wallace fleshes out the conservative agenda of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. But he also points to the strong anti-nuclear sentiment of Japan:

But the new prime minister has tried to crush any suspicion that he favors taking Japan nuclear. Abe wants to avoid creating a hothouse atmosphere that could imperil his ambitious conservative agenda of domestic reforms. The core of his program, from rewriting the pacifist constitution to restoring patriotism and traditional Japanese values in education, is a radical challenge to the postwar order that is the legacy of the U.S. occupation.

To pave the way, Abe has moved within his first month in office to assuage criticism that he is a hawk whose policies will lead to a renewed militarism. He made trips to Beijing and Seoul that, on the surface at least, have improved Tokyo's relations with those capitals. Keeping the Chinese relationship on track is particularly crucial to Abe, and press reports here this week said the prime minister had assured visiting Chinese officials that Japan has no intention of developing a nuclear arsenal.

The North Korean bomb offers those three countries a window to come together against a new threat, even if they disagree on how to discourage Kim Jong Il from further belligerence. Keeping the focus on North Korea's capabilities also provides Japan with political cover to continue modernizing its military.

Tom Plate, in his New Nation editorial, demands we not overreact to North Korea's recent nuclear tests:

The shaking could be due to the mass collapse of thousands upon thousands of North Koreans from starvation, or even from the raucous rattling of malfunctioning test rockets that come crashing to the ground shortly after take-off. Some day perhaps, an odd and ominous sound may be triggered by the surprise thud of a thunderous Chinese coup against Pyongyang.

Don't laugh. This most unlikable regime's widely publicised boast of having conducted a small explosion cannot paper over the fact that North Korea is a pouting paper tiger. To keep things in perspective, the alleged nuclear test was minute in size so small, in fact, that a conventional explosion could have had the same seismic impact.

Hoax or not, fear often spreads disproportionately to reality.

Conclusion: Abe's Smart Diplomacy and Japan's Non-Nuclear Stance

So what does this all mean? Will Japan prusue nuclear weapons in the near future?

Chisaki Watanabe’s Associated Press piece makes it clear that Japan will not join the nuclear club tomorrw. It is also clear that any argument for an evitable Japanese nuclear arsenal is non-sense. Such a perspective oversimplifies Japan's security situation, and reflects the poor neo-realist logic that led Kenneth Waltz to predict a German nuclear arsenal in the post-Cold War Era. (For those of you who don't track proliferation, we’ve been waiting for over 10 years for that prognostication to be borne out).

Barring some exogenous shock, I don't foresee any change in Japan's nuclear posture anytime soon. North Korea is not a grave threat to Japanese security; Japan's nuclear taboo is still strong; the American-Japanese relationship is solid; and, probably most significantly, Prime Minister Abe can't afford to get trapped in a nuclear quagmire before achieving other important political aims.

Given Japan's already considerable and emerging military capabilities, keeping the nuclear partially openned (as Abe has done by pledging 1) not to go nuclear but 2) to have an national discussion on the subject) serves Japanese diplomatic ends better than actually obtaining nuclear weapons.

So what does this mean for proliferation-trackers? Keep your focus on the Middle East, not Asia.

Monday, October 16, 2006

The Other N. Korean Nuclear Fall Out: An Imperiled U.S.-India Nuclear Deal

Has North Korea's recent nuclear test in Hwaderi killed the U.S. India nuclear deal?

The upcoming Outlook Magazine (Outlook India's weekly magazine) offers this article discussing new Indian apprehension about the other political fallout of the North Korean nuclear test: an imperiled nuclear deal.

Here's some background for those not hip to the U.S.-India nulcear beat.

In March, President George W. Bush and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh announced a nuclear deal between the United States and India. The U.S. agreed to supply nuclear materials to India. In return India pledged to separate its nuclear program into civilian and military components, and allow international inspections of their civilian nuclear sector.

The catch? The deal provides India fissile material which can be easily used to bolster its India's nuclear arsenal.

The deal also offers India de-facto nuclear legitimacy from America. India announced its entry to the nuclear club in in 1998, to the great consternation of the international community. While not breaking international law--they did not sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT)--the U.S.-Indian nuclear deal puts America (a leading NPT member) in the uneasy position of providing nuclear supplies to a state that has flouted counter-proliferation norm.

At a time when the administration is aggressively fighting to stop the nuclear enrichment program of Iran, many critics consider the nuclear deal setting a dangerous diplomatic double standard.

Opponents also worry that other recognized nuclear powers (which include France, China, Britain, and Russia) may replicate this nuclear deal with other countries. While perhaps not spreading WMD ingredients to worrisome regimes, some contend that any proliferation is inherently dangerous to global security. (For more from deal opponents, go here to see an article by CAP's Larry Korb and Peter Ogden)

North Korea's recent nuclear test has only served to fuel such concerns.

Proponents of the deal counter that the international community must engage, not ignore today's non-recognized nuclear powers (who include Israel and Pakistan). Supporters further contend that India has been an ideal nuclear power, not proliferating nuclear technology or needlessly imperiling global stability with their weapons. These voices argue that good behavior must be rewarded, not shunned. (For a more detailed pro-deal argument, go here).

But all sides of the debate agree that the U.S.-India deal represents a transitional moment into proliferation diplomacy. While older treaties, such as the NPT, seek to maintain one set of nuclear rules universally, the U.S.-India deal adopts a country-specific approach.

So where is the deal now? Caught in legislative limbo. While passed by the House of Representatives by an overwhelming majority, its frozen in the Senate until the lame duck session following November's mid-term elections.

With an unpopular war in Iraq and North Korea so dominant in this election cycle, don't expect much talk about the India nuclear deal by either the Administration officials or Congressional candidates.

But for opponents of the India deal, North Korea's nuclear gambit may have given them just what they need to to run out the legislative clock on this controversial deal.

(This article was printed earlier on CampusProgress.org, but will be updated throughout the day-- unlike its CP predecessor).