The way the submarine deal is structured sets a bad precedent of supplying a non-nuclear weapon state and NPT member with weapons-grade fuelIf the Aukus partners want to set good standards for non-proliferation, they should expand IAEA safeguards or abandon using nuclear submarine technology
Australian Defence Minister Richard Marles speaks at a press conference in front of the USS Asheville, a Los Angeles-class nuclear-powered fast-attack submarine, during a tour of HMAS Stirling in Perth. The prospect of Australia acquiring nuclear submarines via the Aukus agreement has raised concerns around regional stability and global non-proliferation efforts. Photo: AAP / dpa
First, the supply of a conventionally armed nuclear submarine to a non-nuclear weapon state and member of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) is not only unprecedented but threatens the international non-proliferation regime.
Second, the trilateral deal could deepen geopolitical tensions in the region, setting the Australian navy against Chinese maritime forces in ways that would increase the nuclearisation of the Indian Ocean region and could violate Australia’s own pledge of a nuclear weapons-free zone.
The Aukus partners have said their trilateral partnership to provide Australia with a conventionally armed nuclear submarine would set “the highest possible non-proliferation standards” in ways that “strengthen the global non-proliferation regime”. To ensure this, the US and the UK would provide Australia with complete, welded power units, from which “removal or diversion of any nuclear material would be extremely difficult”.
Additionally, the nuclear material would not be in a form to produce nuclear weapons directly and instead would need further processing in nuclear facilities that Canberra does not have.
On top of that, Australia has been negotiating with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to develop a “suitable verification arrangement” against the diversion of nuclear fuel.
China warns Aukus against going down ‘dangerous road’ over nuclear-powered submarine pact
China warns Aukus against going down ‘dangerous road’ over nuclear-powered submarine pact
But nuclear experts have warned that instead of the highest possible non-proliferation standard, the US was on its way to setting a bad precedent of supplying a non-nuclear weapon state and a member of the NPT with weapons-grade fuel. The nuclear material could remain outside IAEA safeguards for as long as the nuclear submarine remains on patrol.
During that period, it would be impossible for the IAEA to ensure the nuclear material is not removed or diverted for military applications. Some members of the IAEA such as China and Indonesia have argued that the Aukus partners have been less transparent and kept their negotiations with the IAEA private.
Some experts have said the IAEA needs to involve interested member states in these negotiations to reach uniform, non-discriminatory principles regarding the application of safeguards on nuclear submarines.
Another problem is that the IAEA is bound by its statutory obligations to ensure its assistance “is not used in such a way as to further any military purpose”, but the definition of “non-proscribed military activity” or “non-peaceful activities” is unclear. The Aukus partners cannot themselves assume the connotations of these terms and privately negotiate the application of safeguards without the input of other interested IAEA members.
Indonesian political and military officials see the Australian nuclear submarine capability as meant for war and the Aukus pact as a smaller Nato. Since a nuclear submarine could use weapons-grade fissile material, they suggest its use of Indonesian sea lanes could be blocked as it could violate the Asean nuclear-free zone.
What to know about Australia’s Aukus subs and why it’s causing anxiety in Asia16 Mar 2023
The US is expected to provide three of its Virginia class fast-attack nuclear submarines to Australia by the early 2030s. One of the pillars of the Aukus agreement is to provide Australia with a range of defence capabilities, including hypersonic and counter-hypersonic weapons systems to increase interoperability among the US allies.
It would be the first time the US provided a conventionally armed nuclear submarine to a non-nuclear member state of the NPT. Worse, in terms of damaging the global non-proliferation regime, Washington would follow an earlier precedent of Russia’s provision of nuclear submarines to India.
These plans appear to show that Australia could provide US forces with a “protective screen” to attack Chinese targets in the event of conflict and reinforce the US Navy’s strategy to deter Chinese nuclear capability in the region.
For a non-nuclear weapon state and member of the NPT, acquiring or developing an armed nuclear submarine is not the right way to go about doing that. China is not the only country with nuclear submarine capability in the Indo-Pacific. The US and India also operate submarines in the region.
Two Chinese nuclear-powered Type 094A Jin-class ballistic missile submarines are seen during a military display in the South China Sea on April 12, 2018. Photo: Reuters
While China and the US are NPT member states and nuclear powers, India is a non-NPT state. This would be the first time a non-nuclear weapon state and a member of the NPT would operate a nuclear submarine utilising what have been called “grey areas” around IAEA safeguards.
In addition, the US is planning to deploy its B-52 bombers capable of carrying nuclear weapons on a rotational basis at the Royal Australian Air Force base at Tindal in the Northern Territory. There are concerns this move could have severe implications for the Treaty of Rarotonga that establishes the South Pacific nuclear-free zone.
If the Aukus partners want to set the best standards for the global non-proliferation regime, they would be better served to extend the IAEA safeguards to any submarines on patrol to ensure that the agency’s oversight does not stray from the nuclear material at any point. Alternatively, they could shelve the nuclear submarine technology and explore other options with similar military capabilities and features.
The IAEA would also have to address these issues and ensure the transparency and participation of all member states in these negotiations.
The concerned member states would do well to provide solutions to these problems in general terms, not just those specific to Australia, and sideline geopolitics to set a uniform, non-discriminatory criteria for all non-nuclear weapon states and members of the NPT.
Riaz Khokhar is a research associate at the Center for International Strategic Studies (CISS) and a former Asia Studies visiting fellow at the East-West Centre in Washington
The West is re-evaluating the use of nuclear weapons in an era of increasing illiberalism, sparked by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Technological advances such as social media and AI could enable illiberalism, increasing the risk of a nuclear war.
Russian leader Vladimir Putin’s nuclear saber-rattling and refusal to ratify the New START Treaty has heightened concerns about WMDs being used in Ukraine.
Western arms control experts are asking whether old taboos on the use of nuclear weapons are still valid in an age of ascendant illiberalism, underscored by Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine. During the Cold War, it was generally assumed that reason would prevail, thus preventing either the Soviet Union or the United States from going nuclear. But many specialists and scholars these days believe the only certainty concerning the potential future use of weapons of mass destruction is uncertainty.
“Nuclear weapons are back … once again central to international politics, along with renewed Great Power competition,” said Cynthia Roberts, a professor at Hunter College in New York and a leading expert on international security. She added that Russian aggression in Ukraine has brought the “prospect of nuclear war back into the realm of possibility.”
Roberts moderated a recent panel discussion, organized by Columbia University’s Saltzman Institute for War and Peace Studies, that surveyed the shifting WMD landscape. She cited the Biden administration’s recent nuclear posture review, which cautioned that the United States is entering an “unprecedented era” when it faces two “potential [nuclear] adversaries” – Russia and China – as opposed to the Cold War, during which Washington just had to contend with the Soviet Union.
China’s rise is just one factor altering the nuclear-weapons-use calculus. Some panelists also pointed to 21st century technological innovations – especially the advent of social media and rapid advances in artificial intelligence – as potential enablers of illiberalism. The ebb of rationality, they add, heightens the risk of a nuclear button being pressed, or some other weapon of mass destruction being used.
“The liars are taking over the world,” said one panelist, Stephen Van Evera, a political scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “The Enlightenment is in danger because of the new media and the fact that we no longer have vetted information that controls how the public sees things.”’
Russian leader Vladimir Putin’s nuclear saber-rattling, combined with Russia’s withdrawal in early 2023 from the New START Treaty, has raised fears that Russia could resort to using tactical nuclear weapons in Ukraine. What Putin and his generals had expected to be a walkover has turned into a quagmire, exposing the Russian military as poorly led and ineffectual. While experts at the Saltzman Institute event considered the possibility to be slim at present, no one dismissed as impossible the idea of a nuclear device being detonated.
Scott Sagan, a Stanford political scientist, said he believes Putin is keeping his options open. “What we know about leaders in crises, what we know about leaders who sometimes try to gamble for resurrection, suggests when you’re losing, you might take very rash decisions,” he said.
Sagan added that the Soviet-era constraint of collective decision-making seems to have eroded in Putin’s Russia. “Dictators surround themselves with yes-men,” he noted. “If you don’t have a rational actor at the top, you need checks and balances down below.”
Charles Glaser, a professor at The George Washington University, said a variety of scenarios could result in the use a nuclear weapon in Ukraine. “We need to keep in mind that there could also be rational uses of nuclear weapons. They would be very dangerous, but very dangerous isn’t necessarily irrational,” Glaser said. For example, he continued, if Putin feels that Russia is on the verge of experiencing a major setback, such as the loss of Crimea, he might be tempted to employ tactical nuclear weapons as a bargaining chip to force a peace settlement that forestalls a disaster that might threaten his grip on power.
Van Evera voiced fear about the potential for nuclear escalation in Ukraine, saying the “balance of resolve” there is tilting against the United States. “This is the first time the U.S. has gotten itself into a conflict … with another nuclear power that … believes it cares more about the stakes at issue than the U.S. does,” he said. “One of the sort of rules of nuclear statecraft, in my view, is don’t get into a face-to-face confrontation on issues where the other side cares as much as you do, or cares more.” Such a showdown will be decided by the balance of resolve.
The panelists wrestled with the vexing question of what the United States should do if Russia uses a nuclear weapon. The expert consensus appeared to lean toward massive U.S. conventional retaliation because such a response would minimize the risk of escalation.
Glaser noted that although Russia has experienced lots of battlefield reverses, “Putin hasn’t lost badly yet,” and thus hasn’t really faced a situation in which he would be tempted to order a nuclear strike. “If he uses nuclear weapons, we don’t quite know what happens next,” he added. “His limited use could lead to a really bigger nuclear war.”
Any forceful U.S. response to the potential Russian use of a nuclear weapon in Ukraine would certainly entail risks, but inaction could be even riskier, one panelist asserted. “We don’t have the luxury or doing nothing in the face of aggression,” said Etel Solingen, a political scientist at the University of California, Irvine. “Doing nothing is sometimes equivalent to raising the risk of catastrophe. This is the lesson of 2014.”
Solingen was referring to the tepid U.S. and European Union response to Russia’s armed takeover of the Crimean Peninsula in 2014, as well as Kremlin-backed separatists in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas Region who invaded shortly after Crimea’s occupation. “It was Putin’s perception of [Western] inaction [in 2014] … that could have well led to [Russia’s attack on Ukraine in] 2022,” Solingen said.
The world woke up last Friday to the surprise announcement that Beijing has brokered stronger ties between Riyadh and Tehran, radically upending the U.S.-led world order. This has reverberated in capitals all over the world. How does this change the calculus of Iran’s development of nuclear capability, of Israel’s ability to attack Iran through Saudi airspace? What does it say about America’s role in the world, China’s intentions and Saudi Arabia as a long-term ally of the United States?
According to the International Atomic Energy Administration (IAEA), Iran will have very shortly, if it does not have already, enough highly enriched uranium for at least three nuclear bombs. The IAEA has detected traces of uranium at the Fordow Enrichment Facility enriched to 83.7 percent, just a few days’ glide to the 90 percent level necessary for a nuclear bomb.
The IAEA also has said that it can no longer reestablish any certainty regarding Iran’s activities under a revived JCPOA, such as the production of advanced centrifuges and heavy water, due to Iran’s decision in February 2021 to deny the IAEA access to data from key JCPOA-related monitoring and surveillance equipment and because of Iran’s decision in June 2022 to remove all such equipment, including video cameras and online enrichment monitoring devices.
Yet, on Saturday, March 4, IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi met with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and other top officials in Tehran and gave vague assurances that these concerns would be addressed.
The questions remain: Can we trust the IAEA? And can Iran be stopped from developing a nuclear bomb before it is too late?
Here to answer these questions and more is Rich Goldberg.
Goldberg is a senior adviser at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. From 2019-2020, he served as the director for Countering Iranian Weapons of Mass Destruction for the White House National Security Council. He previously served as chief of staff for Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner and deputy chief of staff and senior foreign policy adviser to former U.S. Senator Mark Kirk of Illinois in both the U.S. House and Senate.
Barack Obama, A Promised Land (New York: Crown, 2020)
“Whatever you do won’t be enough. … Try anyway.”
— President Barack Obama
It was December 2009 and the still-new president was in his hotel room in Oslo getting dressed in the tuxedo he would wear for the ceremony to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. An aide knocked on the door and urged him to look out the window. Pulling back the shades, Barack Obama saw several thousand people in the narrow street below holding lit candles over their heads to celebrate him. “[O]n some level,” he notes in his excellent new 700-page memoir, “the crowds below were cheering an illusion … The idea that I, or any one person, could bring order to [this chaotic world] seemed laughable.” (p. 446)
Obama famously had questioned how he deserved this prize so early in his presidency. One answer was the “Prague speech” he had given that April, stating “clearly and with conviction America’s commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.” Now, 11 years later, Obama devotes more words in his memoir to describing the scene on the streets through which his motorcade lumbered en route to the speech site than he does to the content of the speech. (p. 348)
The reticence clearly is not an accident. Throughout the book he barely mentions and never explores in depth what had been hailed earlier as the Prague Agenda.
For example, in an insightful 12-page discussion of Russian politics and U.S. efforts to “reset” relations with Moscow, Obama writes merely that his initial meeting with President Dmitry Medvedev produced “an agreed-upon framework for the new strategic arms treaty, which would reduce each side’s allowable nuclear warheads and delivery systems by up to one-third.” (p. 462)
Nowhere in the text does he mention the considerable labor that he personally devoted to shaping his administration’s Nuclear Posture Review, which was completed in 2010. His signature nuclear policy innovation, a “forty-seven-nation nuclear security summit” to strengthen international efforts to keep nuclear materials away from terrorists, gets no more mention than these four hyphenated words. North Korea receives two glancing comments.
Why does Obama — who was deeply engaged in nuclear policy issues throughout his presidency — devote so little to the topic in his memoir? What does this omission reveal about the politics of nuclear weapons in the United States? And finally, what should those working to reduce nuclear risks around the world learn from Obama’s attempts to grapple with his own legacy on nuclear matters?
There are many ways to interpret Obama’s nuclear reticence. He paid more personal attention to nuclear policy than any president since Ronald Reagan, and he was more knowledgeable about details than any predecessor, except perhaps Jimmy Carter. Disappointment over the results are surely a factor. Although this memoir covers only the first 18 months of his presidency, it is informed by knowledge of what happened later, including the near collapse of arms control with Russia, renewed qualitative arms racing with Russia and China, North Korea’s burgeoning arsenal, and the impossibility of winning Republican support for a nuclear deal with Iran.
But Obama faced lots of other disappointments that he discusses at length. He writes 30 pages on climate change policy and his diplomatic intervention to save the Copenhagen climate summit in December 2009. You can imagine him saying of New START nuclear policy what he writes wryly about the Copenhagen effort:
All that for an interim agreement that — even if it worked entirely as planned — would be at best a preliminary, halting step toward solving a possible planetary tragedy, a pail of water thrown on a raging fire. I realized that for all the power inherent in the seat I now occupied, there would always be a chasm between what I knew should be done to achieve a better world and what in a day, week, or year I found myself actually able to accomplish. (p. 516)
An earlier passage may partially answer why nuclear issues barely register in the book. In recounting the 2009 press conference in Moscow with Medvedev where Obama had described the framework for what became the New START Treaty, Obama wryly (as usual) notes that Robert Gibbs, his press secretary, “was more excited by Russia’s agreement to lift restrictions on certain U.S. livestock exports, a change worth more than $1 billion to American farmers and ranchers.” This, Gibbs said, was “[s]omething folks back home actually care about.” (p. 462) Later, Obama bemoans the absence of a strong domestic constituency “clamoring” for the treaty’s ratification by the Senate, which left him no choice but to make “a devil’s bargain” with Republican leaders to boost funding to modernize the nuclear weapons infrastructure. (p. 608)
To sell books or political candidates today, the less said about nuclear policy the better. The public and media don’t follow the details. They can’t reasonably assess the pros and cons of policy options. Until there is a nuclear war — or a real scare that one is imminent — busy people are unlikely to demand big changes.
One could say that the public doesn’t care or follow what’s going on in Afghanistan, either, yet Obama writes much more about it. The difference is that Afghanistan was a war and topic of necessity — as Obama insisted in the 2008 campaign. He had to deal with it. Nuclear policy is an issue of choice so long as deterrence seems to be working. When the political payoff is negligible, it is better to turn to other things. People do get alarmed by Iranian or North Korean proliferation. The president should try to address those challenges. But neither the public nor Congress and the defense establishment see how stopping proliferation requires fidelity to nuclear disarmament, as Obama argued.
Public inattention means that Republican leaders could have relatively free hands to pursue arms control and disarmament measures if they wanted to. Their supporters will not protest, and Democrats by and large will go along. Democratic leaders face a much tougher challenge. The more public their arms control-related initiatives, the more that nativist Republican forces will counter them with narratives of weakness, naivete, and indulgence of evil Iranian Ayatollahs, Chinese Communists, or Russian cheaters. Those narratives win in cable news and internet combat in swing states and districts. To counter them and buy the necessary Republican votes, Democrats are compelled to fund new or different military capabilities that signify strength and revenue to defense contractors and host states. This says more about the public and the political-psychology of enmity than it does about Democrats, but the reader imagines that the Obama of the Prague speech underestimated the challenge.
For Democrats, the most plausible way around the mass constituency problem is to appoint motivated experts to key administration positions and to team them with military leaders who share the view that nuclear deterrence can be maintained between the United States and Russia and China with much leaner arsenals. Obama had a few such officials (e.g., Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. James “Hoss” Cartwright and Under Secretary of Defense for Policy James Miller) but neither Secretary of Defense Robert Gates nor Secretary of State Hillary Clinton shared his nuclear policy predilections or exerted themselves against domestic and international resistance to them.
The political logic of selecting and working with military leaders who share a president’s view on the relative importance of conventional versus nuclear forces for securing the United States and allies is affirmed, indirectly, in another line from Gibbs. Talking about what became the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, Obama wonders if the public would understand the arcane rule changes involved. Gibbs assures him, “They don’t need to understand it. … If the banks hate it, they’ll figure it must be a good thing.” (p. 553) In nuclear policy, the equivalent line might be, “If the military hates it, the public will figure it’s a bad thing.” In general, Obama stays shy of arguing with the military. Indeed, the memoir’s discussions of Gen. David Petraeus, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, and Adm. Mike Mullen are sugarcoated compared to Bob Woodward’s account of White House-military relations in Obama’s Wars.
According to the Constitution, civilians should direct the military, of course. But the public trusts military leaders more when it comes to national security, especially compared to Democrats. To shift national nuclear policies in the current environment, the president needs to win 60 votes in the Senate to advance legislation — 67 to ratify treaties. This requires persuading senators from swing states to support the agenda. If the military joins opponents against a Democratic president, that president and his or her policies will lose. (This logic may, in part, be reflected in President-elect Joe Biden’s selection of retired Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III as secretary of defense. Due to the public’s trust in the armed forces, Austin’s military experience is likely to be a political asset. His impact on potential nuclear policy is unclear. Austin comes from the Army, a service that is less invested in the nuclear enterprise, as they and the Marines don’t have any nuclear weapons. As former commander of U.S. Central Command, he will have the best possible credibility for arguing in favor of returning to the Iran nuclear deal — credibility that Biden will need in front of the Congress and the public.)
To win military leaders’ support for new nuclear policies, or at least their politically useful nonresistance, experts and civilian officials will need to offer the military better alternatives for deterring or defeating threats. The best such alternatives would be dialing down Russian and Chinese coercion of their neighbors, and negotiating verifiable reductions of Russian nuclear forces and limitations on China’s military buildup. The United States, of course, will have to provide reciprocal reassurance to Moscow and Beijing, which is easier said than done. The other, not mutually exclusive, need is to improve U.S. and allied non-nuclear capabilities to prevent Russia or China from taking small bits of disputed territory and then leaving Washington with the dreadful choice of capitulation or major conflict that could escalate — purposefully or inadvertently — to nuclear war. To allay concerns of arms racing, Washington should make clear to Moscow and Beijing that it prefers to negotiate confidence-building and arms control mechanisms with them if they want to.
Rather than the audacious hope of Senator Obama, President Obama’s experience suggests that people seeking the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons need an attitude more like Albert Camus’ Sisyphus, whom “we must imagine happy” as he repeatedly pushes the rock up the hill. This is the Obama that comes through the superb memoir: patient, ironic, steadily trying, and grinning even as he knows that whatever we can accomplish may not be enough.
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George Perkovich is the Ken Olivier and Angela Nomellini Chair and vice president for studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
Even after 25 years of its nuclear explosions, it seems that the world is still not ready to consider Pakistan as a nuclear power. We often hear that Pakistan is an irresponsible state. The political and economic crisis of Pakistan raises many questions, among which the Western world is very concerned about whether Pakistan’s nuclear assets are safe. The Prime Minister’s Office has made it clear that Pakistan’s nuclear and missile program is a national asset, and the state of Pakistan is responsible for protecting this program in every way.
This program is completely safe, foolproof and free from any pressure. The spokesperson of the Prime Minister House says that all the recent statements, questions and various claims circulating in the social and print media regarding Pakistan’s nuclear and missile program, including the Director General (DG) International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Rafael Mariano Grossi’s routine visit are being painted negatively. According to the Prime Minister’s House spokesperson, the program is completely safe and it fully serves the purpose for which this capability was developed. International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi visited Pakistan on 15 and 16 February 2023. Earlier, a campaign was seen on social media, wherein claims were made from several Twitter handles that the IMF demanded the rollback of Pakistan’s nuclear program. In this context, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar has also issued a statement. Senator Dar said that the national interest was to be protected and there will be no compromise on the nuclear or missile programs. No one had the right to tell Pakistan what range of missiles or nuclear weapons it should keep, he continued.
Every Pakistani knows that they will eat grass and will not let the fire come into the country.
From the statements of these two important figures, it is clear that there has been a discussion regarding the compromise on Pakistan’s nuclear assets by the IMF or some other party. Perhaps, considering the economic conditions of Pakistan, the world wants to suppress Pakistan. But the western world should keep in mind that Pakistan is an important bridge between the countries of South Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East. The importance of Pakistan in world politics is also certain, which is not easy for the world to ignore. Pakistan’s role in the economic world order race between China and America is very important. Perhaps, in view of this political importance, world powers continue to impose illegal restrictions on Pakistan.
Despite the economic hardship, the real strength and pride of Pakistan is the spirit of the people and the commitment of the Pakistan Army, which is one of the few organized armies in the world. Pakistan Army is the protector of our ideological borders. Pakistan Army has always worked for the security and stability of Pakistan and is equipped with nuclear missile technology and modern weapons, Pakistan Army has always defeated the enemy on every front, due to which the enemies are afraid of its nuclear assets and missile program.
Almost 25 years ago, on May 28, 1998, Pakistan became the first nuclear country in the Islamic world and the seventh nuclear country in the world by detonating nuclear weapons at Chagai. The world was never and is not ready to accept Pakistan as a nuclear power, which is why a lot of propaganda was done for a long time that Pakistan’s nuclear assets are not in safe hands. But Thanks To Allah, Pakistan’s nuclear program is under a foolproof command and control system.
Pakistan Army with its professional skills has proved that not only do we have the best ability to defend ourselves as a nuclear power but also know how to protect it. By becoming a nuclear power, Pakistan has led to a balance in the region. Otherwise, the whole world knows what India’s role was and is in the region. Difficult economic conditions keep coming to the nations, so it is not possible that Pakistan would ever put its integrity at stake under the guise of economic conditions or in the hope of an agreement with the IMF. In any case, every Pakistani knows that they will eat grass and will not let the fire come to the country.
The need is that all of us should be committed to the security, defence and protection of Pakistan and its development and prosperity and stand in a row so that we don’t have to spread our hands in front of others.
For this, the government, the opposition, the army, the judiciary and the people have to be united for the development of the country and think together so that we can give future generations a country with a safe homeland and a strong economic power.
If we are united, no power in the world can even think of looking down on us, and no one can dictate to us our weapons of defence. If we come together and create consensus and put aside our differences for the sake of the country, and with proper planning and proper utilization of manpower, Pakistan can reach new heights of economic development. Pakistan has come into existence after great sacrifices and all of us must appreciate it. The secret of Pakistan’s development lies in the same way that during the Pakistan movement, people came together to achieve this country and united from the individual level to the collective level for its economic development.
The writer is an old Aitchisonian who believes in freedom of expression, a freelance columnist, entrepreneur and social activist.
Policymakers are increasingly concerned about evidence of increasing cooperation between the United States’ two greatest adversaries, Russia and China.
While recent discussion has focused on China providing Russia with lethal aid to support its aggression in Ukraine, a potentially more dangerous element to this budding relationship has just come into public view: Russian support for China’s nuclear buildup.
Central to this nuclear buildup is China’s need for nuclear material; namely, plutonium. Historically , China operated two nuclear power plants capable of producing weapons-grade plutonium. The two plants were shut down in 1984 and 1989, respectively, leaving China with only a limited stockpile of plutonium. But at that time, China still maintained its historic posture of “minimum deterrence,” possessing just a very limited arsenal of nuclear weapons.
With its newfound nuclear ambitions, China must remedy its limited access to plutonium. As part of the effort, China has been constructing new fast-breeder reactors called the CFR-600. While China claims these reactors serve civilian purposes, they are also equally capable of producing weapons-grade plutonium .
Compared with a typical nuclear reactor that utilizes the energy from nuclear fission to power a generator or create electricity, a fast-breeder reactor can be designed to maximize the output of plutonium from the fission reactions. For that reason, these reactors are useful for nuclear weapons programs.
This time, the implications of Russia’s aid to China’s plutonium reactors are quite significant. For starters, it proves that when Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping declared a “no limits” partnership in February 2022, they really meant it.
Perhaps worse, this development means that the more fuel Russia provides, the more plutonium China can produce. And the more plutonium China can produce, the more nuclear weapons it can build.
Given the state of geopolitics, any advancing relationship between Russia, a country with significant nuclear experience and an abundance of nuclear material, and China, an aspiring nuclear superpower with money to spend, comes with great risk.
The U.S. Energy Department is pursuing a project to ultimately be able to produce 80 of these plutonium pits per year, but it has been delayed, and will not be complete until after 2030. And even then, at first it will produce enough pits only to replace current aging warheads, rather than expand the inventory. To avoid falling behind China, the U.S. needs to significantly progress on this program.
Whether the United States is prepared to admit it or not, it’s becoming increasingly clear that it will need to compete in the nuclear arena to prevent China from surging ahead and gaining nuclear advantages. Combined with the threats posed by a recalcitrant Russia , the U.S. needs to strengthen its nuclear deterrent to ensure it retains a strategic edge against these increasingly hostile adversaries.
The city has been hit by major quakes in the past, along what’s thought to be roughly 150-year intervals, and researchers investigating these faults now say the region could be overdue for the next event.
Experts warn a system of faults making up a ‘brittle grid’ beneath New York City could also be loading up for a massive temblor. The city has been hit by major quakes in the past, along what’s thought to be roughly 150-year intervals. A stock image is pictured
THE ‚CONEY ISLAND EARTHQUAKE‘
On August 10, 1884, New York was struck by a magnitude 5.5 earthquake with an epicentre located in Brooklyn.
While there was little damage and few injuries reported, anecdotal accounts of the event reveal the frightening effects of the quake.
One newspaper even reported that it caused someone to die from fright.
According to a New York Times report following the quake, massive buildings, including the Post Office swayed back and forth.
And, police said they felt the Brooklyn Bridge swaying ‘as if struck by a hurricane,’ according to an adaptation of Kathryn Miles’ book Quakeland: On the Road to America’s Next Devastating Earthquake.
The rumbles were felt across a 70,000-square-mile area, causing broken windows and cracked walls as far as Pennsylvania and Connecticut.
The city hasn’t experienced an earthquake this strong since.
According to geologist Dr Charles Merguerian, who has walked the entirety of Manhattan to assess its seismicity, there are a slew of faults running through New York, reports author Kathryn Miles in an
adaptationof her new book Quakeland: On the Road to America’s Next Devastating Earthquake.
One such fault passes through 125th street, otherwise known as the Manhattanville Fault.
While there have been smaller quakes in New York’s recent past, including a magnitude 2.6 that struck in October 2001, it’s been decades since the last major tremor of M 5 or more.
And, most worryingly, the expert says there’s no way to predict exactly when a quake will strike.
‘That’s a question you really can’t answer,’ Merguerian has explained in the past.
‘All we can do is look at the record, and the record is that there was a relatively large earthquake here in the city in 1737, and in 1884, and that periodicity is about 150 year heat cycle.
‘So you have 1737, 1884, 20- and, we’re getting there. But statistics can lie.
‘An earthquake could happen any day, or it couldn’t happen for 100 years, and you just don’t know, there’s no way to predict.’
Compared the other parts of the United States, the risk of an earthquake in New York may not seem as pressing.
But, experts explain that a quake could happen anywhere.
According to geologist Dr Charles Merguerian, there are a slew of faults running through NY. One is the Ramapo Fault
‘All states have some potential for damaging earthquake shaking,’ according to the US Geological Survey.
‘Hazard is especially high along the west coast but also in the intermountain west, and in parts of the central and eastern US.’
A recent assessment by the USGS determined that the earthquake hazard along the East Coast may previously have been underestimated.
‘The eastern U.S. has the potential for larger and more damaging earthquakes than considered in previous maps and assessments,’ the USGS
The experts point to a recent example – the magnitude 5.8 earthquake that hit Virginia in 2011, which was among the largest to occur on the east coast in the last century.
This event suggests the area could be subjected to even larger earthquakes, even raising the risk for Charleston, SC.
It also indicates that New York City may be at higher risk than once thought.
A recent assessment by the USGS determined that the earthquake hazard along the East Coast may previously have been underestimated. The varying risks around the US can be seen above, with New York City in the mid-range (yellow).
1957 – The United States signs a civil nuclear cooperation agreement with Iran.
1958 – Iran joins the IAEA.
1967 – The Tehran Nuclear Research Center, which includes a small reactor supplied by the United States, opens.
1968 – Iran signs the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Mid-1970s – With US backing, Iran begins developing a nuclear power program.
1979 – Iran’s Islamic revolution ends Western involvement in the country’s nuclear program.
December 1984 – With the aid of China, Iran opens a nuclear research center in Isfahan.
February 23, 1998 – The United States announces concerns that Iran’s nuclear energy program could lead to the development of nuclear weapons.
March 14, 2000 – US President Bill Clinton signs a law that allows sanctions against people and organizations that provide aid to Iran’s nuclear program.
February 21, 2003 –IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei visits Iran to survey its nuclear facilities and to encourage Iran to sign a protocol allowing IAEA inspectors greater and faster access to nuclear sites. Iran declines to sign the protocol. ElBaradei says he must accept Iran’s statement that its nuclear program is for producing power and not weapons, despite claims of the United States to the contrary.
June 19, 2003 – The IAEA issues a report saying that Iran appeared to be in compliance with the Non-Proliferation Treaty, but that it needed to be more open about its activities.
August 2003 – The IAEA announces that its inspectors in Iran have found traces of highly enriched uranium at the Natanz uranium enrichment plant. Iran claims the amounts are contamination from equipment bought from other countries. Iran agrees to sign a protocol of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation treaty that allows for unannounced visits to their nuclear facilities and signs it on December 18, 2003.
October 2003 – The Foreign Ministers of Britain, France and Germany visit Tehran, and all parties agree upon measures Iran will take to settle all outstanding issues with the IAEA. Under obligation to the IAEA, Iran releases a dossier on its nuclear activities. However, the report does not contain information on where Iran acquired components for centrifuges used to enrich uranium, a fact the IAEA considers important in determining whether the uranium is to be enriched for weapons.
December 2003 – Iran signs the Additional Protocol to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty with the IAEA voluntarily agreeing to broader inspections of its nuclear facilities.
February 2004 – A.Q. Khan, “father” of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program, admits to having provided Iran and other countries with uranium-enrichment equipment.
June 1, 2004 – The IAEA states they have found traces of uranium that exceed the amount used for general energy production. Iran admits that it is importing parts for advanced centrifuges that can be used to enrich uranium, but is using the parts to generate electricity.
July 31, 2004 – Iran states that it has resumed production on centrifuge parts used for enriching uranium, but not enrichment activities.
August 8, 2005 – Iran restarts uranium conversion, a step on the way to enrichment, at a nuclear facility, saying it is for peaceful purposes only, and flatly rejects a European offer aimed at ensuring the nation does not seek nuclear weapons.
August 9, 2005 – Iran removes the IAEA seals from its Isfahan nuclear processing facility, opening the uranium conversion plant for full operation. IAEA spokesman Mark Gwozdecky states that the plant “is fully monitored by the IAEA” and “is not a uranium enrichment plant.”
September 11, 2005 – Iran’s new foreign minister, Manouchehr Mottaki, says the country won’t suspend activities at its Isfahan uranium conversion facility and it plans to seek bids for the construction of two more nuclear plants.
January 10, 2006 – Iran resumes research at its Natanz uranium enrichment plant, arguing that doing so is within the terms of an agreement with the IAEA.
January 12, 2006 – Foreign ministers of the EU3 (Great Britain, France, Germany) recommend Iran’s referral to the United Nations Security Council over its nuclear program.
January 13, 2006 – Mottaki states that if Iran is referred, its government under law will be forced to stop some of its cooperation with the IAEA, including random inspections.
April 11, 2006 – Hashemi Rafsanjani, Iran’s former president, states that Iran has increased the number of functioning centrifuges in its nuclear facilities in Natanz and has produced enriched uranium from them.
August 31, 2006 – The IAEA issues a report on Iran saying the Islamic republic “has not suspended its enrichment activities” despite this day’s deadline to do so. Iran can possibly face economic sanctions.
December 23, 2006 – The UN Security Council votes unanimously to impose sanctions against Iran for failing to suspend its nuclear program.
February 22, 2007 – The IAEA issues a statement saying that Iran has not complied with the UN Security Council’s call for a freeze of all nuclear activity. Instead, Iran has expanded its uranium enrichment program.
March 24, 2007 – The United Nations adopts Resolution 1747 which toughens sanctions against Iran. The sanctions include the freezing of assets of 28 individuals and organizations involved in Iran’s nuclear and missile programs. About a third of those are linked to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, an elite military corp.
May 23, 2007 – The IAEA delivers its report to the United Nations on Iran’s nuclear activities. The report states that not only has Iran failed to end its uranium enrichment program but has in fact expanded its activity.
June 21, 2007 – Iran’s Interior Minister Mostafa Pour-Mohammadi claims, “Now we have 3,000 centrifuges and have in our warehouses 100 kilograms of enriched uranium…We also have more than 150 tons of raw materials for producing uranium gas.”
February 20, 2009 – The Institute for Science and International Security reports that Iranian scientists have reached “nuclear weapons breakout capability.” The report concludes Iran does not yet have a nuclear weapon but does have enough low-enriched uranium for a single nuclear weapon. An official at the IAEA cautions about drawing such conclusions. The IAEA says Iran’s stock of low-enriched uranium would have to be turned into highly enriched uranium to become weapons-grade material.
February 25, 2009 – Iran runs tests at its Bushehr nuclear power plant using “dummy” fuel rods loaded with lead in place of enriched uranium to simulate nuclear fuel. A news release distributed to reporters at the scene states the test measured the “pressure, temperature and flow rate” of the facility to make sure they were at appropriate levels. Officials say the next test will use enriched uranium, but it’s not clear when the test will be held or when the facility will be fully operational.
September 21, 2009 – In a letter to the IAEA, Iran reveals the existence of a second nuclear facility. It is located underground at a military base, near the city of Qom.
October 25, 2009 – IAEA inspectors make their first visit to Iran’s newly disclosed nuclear facility near Qom.
February 18, 2010 – In a statement, the IAEA reports that it believes Iran may be working in secret to develop a nuclear warhead for a missile.
August 21, 2010 – Iran begins fueling its first nuclear energy plant, in the city of Bushehr.
December 5, 2010 – Ali Akbar Salehi, Iran’s atomic chief and acting foreign minister, announces that Iran’s nuclear program is self-sufficient and that Iran has begun producing yellowcake, an intermediate stage in processing uranium.
January 8, 2011 – Salehi reports that Iran can now create its own nuclear fuel plates and rods.
September 4, 2011 – Iran announces that its Bushehr nuclear power plant joined the electric grid September 3, making it the first Middle Eastern country to produce commercial electricity from atomic reactors.
September 5, 2011 – In response to Iran’s nuclear chief stating that Iran will give the IAEA “full supervision” of its nuclear program for five years if UN sanctions are lifted, the European Union says that Iran must first comply with international obligations.
November 8, 2011 – The IAEA releases a report saying that it has “serious concerns” and “credible” information that Iran may be developing nuclear weapons.
January 9, 2012 – The IAEA confirms that uranium enrichment has begun at the Fordo nuclear facility in the Qom province in northern Iran.
January 23, 2012 – The European Union announces it will ban the import of Iranian crude oil and petroleum products.
January 29, 2012 – A six-member delegation from the IAEA arrives in Tehran for a three-day visit, shortly after the EU imposes new sanctions aimed at cutting off funding to the nuclear program.
January 31, 2012 – In Senate testimony James Clapper, Director of National Intelligence, says there’s no evidence Iran is building a nuclear bomb. CIA Director David Petraeus agrees.
February 15, 2012 – Iran loads the first domestically produced nuclear fuel rods into the Tehran research reactor.
February 21, 2012 – After two days of talks in Iran about the country’s nuclear program, the IAEA expresses disappointment that no progress was made and that their request to visit the Parchin military base was denied.
March 28, 2012 – Discussions regarding Iran’s nuclear future stall.
April 14, 2012 – Talks resume between Iran and six world powers over Iranian nuclear ambitions in Istanbul, Turkey.
May 25, 2012 – An IAEA report finds that environmental samples taken at the Fordo fuel enrichment plant near the city of Qom have enrichment levels of up to 27%, higher than the previous level of 20%.
June 18-19, 2012 – A meeting is held between Iran and the P5+1 (United States, France, Russia, China, Great Britain and Germany) in Moscow. No agreement is reached.
June 28, 2012 – Iranian negotiator,Saeed Jalili writes to European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton warning world powers to avoid “unconstructive measures” such as the oil embargo that’s about to go into effect and that was agreed upon by the EU in January.
July 1, 2012 – A full embargo of Iranian oil from the EU takes effect.
August 30, 2012 – A UN report finds that Iran has stepped up its production of high-grade enriched uranium and has re-landscaped Parchin, one of its military bases, in an apparent effort to hamper a UN inquiry into the country’s nuclear program.
January 20, 2014 – The European Union announces that it has suspended certain sanctions against Iran for six months.
February 20, 2014 – Following talks in Vienna, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif announce that a deal on the framework for comprehensive negotiations over Tehran’s nuclear program has been reached.
July 14, 2015 – A deal is reached on Iran’s nuclear program. The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) reduces the number of Iranian centrifuges by two-thirds. It places bans on enrichment at key facilities, and limits uranium research and development to the Natanz facility. On July 20, the UN Security Council endorses the nuclear deal.
January 16, 2016 – IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano says Iran has completed all the necessary steps agreed under the nuclear deal, and that all participants can begin implementing the JCPOA.
February 3, 2017 – In reaction to the January 29 missile test, the US Treasury Department says it is applying sanctions on 25 individuals and companies connected to Iran’s ballistic missile program and those providing support to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Qods Force. Flynn says the tests were in defiance of a UN Security Council resolution that bars Iran from taking steps on a ballistic missile program capable of launching nuclear weapons.
October 13, 2017 – Trump decertifies Iran’s compliance with the nuclear agreement, declaring that the pact was not in US interests and unveiling a tough new policy toward the Islamic Republic. The move stops short of completely scrapping the agreement, instead kicking it to Congress, who then has 60 days to determine a path forward. Congress allows the 60-day deadline to pass without action.
May 21, 2018 – Speaking at the Heritage Foundation, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says the Trump administration is “open to new steps” with Iran, including a diplomatic relationship. Part of 12 preconditions: Iran must acknowledge past military dimensions of its nuclear program and expand access given to nuclear inspectors. The United States will then be willing to end sanctions, re-establish commercial relationships and allow Iran to have advanced technology.
September 23, 2019 – In an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, Zarif outlines a proposal for an agreement that would augment the defunct nuclear deal. In return for lifting sanctions, Iran would be prepared to sign an additional protocol, allowing for more intrusive inspections of the country’s nuclear facilities at an earlier date than that set out previously. Khamenei would also enshrine a ban on nuclear weapons in law, Zarif says.
February 18, 2021 – The Biden administration announces that the US is willing to sit down for talks with Tehran and other signatories to the Iran nuclear deal and achieve a mutual return to compliance with JCPOA. Less than two weeks later, Iran rejects an offer by the European Union for direct talks with P5+1 countries.
February 4, 2022 – The Biden administration restores a sanctions waiver that will allow countries to cooperate with Iran on civil nuclear projects. The move takes place a week after talks adjourn. US officials have warned that there are only weeks left to return to the deal given Iran’s rapid nuclear developments. Tehran has called for broad sanctions relief before coming back into compliance with the deal.
Pentagon’s 2022 report to Congress estimated that by 2030 China’s nuclear stockpile will have about 1,000 operational nuclear warheads
New Delhi: China has a stockpile of approximately 410 nuclear warheads for delivery by land-based ballistic missiles, sea-based ballistic missiles, and bombers said The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists in the latest article Nuclear Notebook.
The Nuclear Notebook article says that additional warheads are thought to be in production to arm additional road-mobile and silo-based missiles and bombers.
The Pentagon’s 2022 report to Congress estimated that by 2030 China’s nuclear stockpile “will have about 1,000 operational nuclear warheads, most of which will be fielded on systems capable of ranging the continental United States”.
If the expansion continues at the current rate, the Pentagon projected, China might field a stockpile of about 1,500 nuclear warheads by 2035.
China continues the nuclear weapons modernization program that it initiated in the 1990s and 2000s but is expanding it significantly by fielding more types and greater numbers of nuclear weapons than ever before.
China’s intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), has significantly advanced the construction of its three new missile silo fields for solid-fuel ICBMs, and has also expanded the construction of new silos for its liquid-fuel DF-5 ICBMs, the Nuclear NoteBook article in the magazine article said.
China is also significantly expanding its DF-26 intermediate-range ballistic missile force and has also begun replacing some older conventional short-range ballistic missiles with medium-range ballistic missiles equipped with hypersonic glide vehicles.
At sea, China apparently has refitted its six Type-094 ballistic missile submarines with the longer-range JL-3 submarine-launched ballistic missile, the Nuclear Notebook article read.
In addition, China has recently reassigned a nuclear mission to its bombers and is developing an air-launched ballistic missile that might have nuclear capability.
China’s Nuclear doctrine and policy
China’s official policy identifies self-defence and counter-strike response as key guidelines for its military strategy and reiterates a historical commitment to no-first-use of nuclear weapons.
Since its first nuclear test in 1964, China has maintained a minimum nuclear deterrence posture and emphasized that a credible second-strike capability would be sufficient to deter an attack on China.
China’s ambassador for disarmament affairs Li Song In his speech to the UN General Assembly First Committee session on nonproliferation in October 2022, claimed that China “keeps its nuclear capabilities at the minimum level required for national security and does not engage in any nuclear arms race with any other country.”
However, the claim is being challenged as China continues expanding its nuclear arsenal. China has never defined how big a “minimum” capability is or what activities constitute an “arms race,” and the policies evidently do not prohibit a massive expansion in response to other nuclear-armed states.
Some 2.5 tons of natural uranium stored in a site in war-torn Libya have gone missing
ByJON GAMBRELL and JACK JEFFERY Associated Press
March 16, 2023, 1:48 AM
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Some 2.5 tons of natural uranium stored in a site in war-torn Libya have gone missing, the United Nations nuclear watchdog said Thursday, raising safety and proliferation concerns.
However, forces allied to a warlord battling the Libyan government based in the capital of Tripoli claimed on Thursday night that they recovered the material. U.N. inspectors said they were trying to confirm that.
Natural uranium cannot immediately be used for energy production or bomb fuel, as the enrichment process typically requires the metal to be converted into a gas, then later spun in centrifuges to reach the levels needed.
But each ton of natural uranium — if obtained by a group with the technological means and resources — can be refined to 5.6 kilograms (12 pounds) of weapons-grade material over time, experts say. That makes finding the missing metal important for nonproliferation experts.
In a statement, the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency said its director-general, Rafael Mariano Grossi, informed member states Wednesday about the missing uranium.
The IAEA statement remained tightlipped though on details.
On Tuesday, “agency safeguards inspectors found that 10 drums containing approximately 2.5 tons of natural uranium in the form of uranium ore concentrate were not present as previously declared at a location in the state of Libya,” the IAEA said. “Further activities will be conducted by the agency to clarify the circumstances of the removal of the nuclear material and its current location.”
The IAEA did not identify the site, nor did it respond to questions about it from The Associated Press.
Reuters first reported on the IAEA warning about the missing Libyan uranium, saying the IAEA told members reaching the site that’s not under government control required “complex logistics.”
One such declared site is Sabha, some 660 kilometers (410 miles) southeast of Tripoli, in the country’s lawless southern reaches of the Sahara Desert. Libya’s late dictator Moammar Gadhafi stored thousands of barrels of so-called yellowcake uranium for a once-planned uranium conversion facility that was never built in his decadeslong secret weapons program.
Estimates put the Libyan stockpile at some 1,000 metric tons of yellowcake uranium under Gadhafi, who declared his nascent nuclear weapons program to the world in 2003 after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.
But the 2011 Arab Spring saw rebels topple Gadhafi and ultimately kill him. Sabha grew increasingly lawless, with African migrants crossing Libya, saying some had been sold as slaves in the city, the U.N. reported.
In recent years, Sabha largely has been under the control of the self-styled Libyan National Army, headed by Khalifa Hifter. On Thursday night, Hifter’s forces issued a statement claiming they had recovered the material.
They published a video showing a man in a disposable white suit and respirator in the desert, counting off what appeared to be 18 metal drums. Some of the blue-painted drums bore what appeared to be batch numbers. News footage from 2011 of the facility showed similar drums.
However, the man did not open the drums in the footage.
Hifter’s forces claimed they found the drums some 5 kilometers (3 miles) south of the facility. They tried to accuse Chadian separatist fighters, who operate in the region, of stealing the drums after mistaking them for weapons and ammunition. Hifter’s forces provided no evidence for the accusation.
The video footage resembled features of the desert surrounding the uranium stockpile site, though the AP could not immediately locate it.
Hifter’s forces also claimed the storage site had been found with an “opening” on its side. They claimed that a top IAEA official informed them of the “opening” nearly a week earlier than the agency described discovering the missing uranium. The conflicting timelines could not be immediately reconciled.
Hifter’s forces also asserted the IAEA failed to provide protective equipment and security for the site, though countries with nuclear material themselves bear responsibility for those sites. They also didn’t explain how the site had been secured — or if it was currently.
Asked about the claim by Hifter’s forces, the IAEA said: “We are aware of media reports that the material has been found. The agency is actively working to verify them.”
“Stressing that Libya viewed the question as primarily a commercial one, (the official) noted that prices for uranium yellowcake on the world market had been increasing, and that Libya wanted to maximize its profit by properly timing the sale of its stockpile,” then-Ambassador Gene A. Cretz wrote.