Project News

North Korea Threatens "New Form" of Nuclear Test

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) will “not rule out a new form of nuclear test to bolster up its nuclear deterrence,” the DPRK’s foreign ministry announced on March 30. Further information about this “new form” of test was not revealed, but the U.S. and its allies have long suspected the DPRK was trying to develop a nuclear warhead small and sophisticated enough to mount on the intercontinental ballistic missile it was also developing.

The DPRK has completed preparations for a nuclear test, South Korea’s defense minister said on April 1. North Korea previously conducted nuclear weapons test explosions in October 2006, May 2009, and February 2013; each of which were within three months of conducting missile tests. Their testing of two Rodong midrange ballistic missiles on March 26 could suggests the possibility of a fourth nuclear test explosion in the near future.

In an analysis published on 38 North, Jeffrey Lewis of the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, suggested that the DPRK may be configuring its Punggye-ri site for multiple nuclear tests. Lewis notes, “North Korea may soon have access to regular amounts of fissile material if it doesn’t already,” and asks, “what if North Korea conducts a nuclear test, or even two, on an annual basis?”

The DPRK has yet to sign the CTBT and is one of eight states that need to ratify the treaty before it enters into force. At the U.N. General Assembly on December 3, 2012 the DPRK was the only nation to vote against a resolution supporting the CTBT. By contrast, 184 nations supported the resolution and three were absent (India, Mauritius, and Syria).

U.S. Says It Will Be "Patient, But Persistent" on CTBT

In remarks outlining the Obama administration's arms control, nonproliferation, and disarmament priorities earlier this year, newly-confirmed Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Rose Gottemoeller announced that the administration will "be working to expand our public outreach on the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty."

Speaking at a conference in Northern Virginia, Feb. 14, Gottemoeller added, "I want to be clear, we have no desire to rush up to the Hill for a vote. It’s been 15 years since this the CTBT was on the front pages of newspapers and whether we are talking to a Senator or a staffer, a schoolteacher or a student– we know that it is our job to make the case for this Treaty. Together, we can work through questions and concerns about the Treaty and explosive nuclear testing. In particular, the dangerous health effects of nuclear testing is a specific topic that can and should be addressed both here at home and abroad."

"Once we’ve brought the Treaty back to people’s attention, we can move on to discussion and debate – just like we did with the New START Treaty. We will not be setting timeframes for moving forward. We are going to be patient, but we will also be persistent. Above all, the CTBT is good for American national security and that is why we will continue educating the country on the treaty’s merits," Gottemoeller said.

Two weeks later, in remarks delivered at a March 1 ceremony marking the 60th anniversary of the enormous Castle Bravo test in 1954, Gottemoeller said: "The United States will be patient in our pursuit of ratification, but we will also be persistent. It has been a long time since the CTBT was on the front pages of newspapers, so we will need time to make the case for this Treaty. Together, we can work through questions and concerns about the Treaty and explosive nuclear testing."

Israeli Government Expresses Strong Support for CTBT

Following a mid-March visit to Israel by CTBTO Executive Secretary Lassina Zerbo, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has made clear that he considers the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to be of no use in the Middle East, the sources said, but by contrast Israel considers the CTBT to be “very significant,” is “proud” to have signed it, and “has never had a problem with the CTBT,” according to a report in The Times of Israel.

Zerbo held talks with Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz, and the head of the Israeli Atomic Energy Commission Shaul Chorev. Israel has signed but not ratified the CTBT.

Israel is “probably the one that could ratify first” out of the eight Annex 2 countries that must ratify the treaty before it takes effect, Zerbo told The Times of Israel on March 19. "The message I'm getting is not 'if' but 'when,' Zerbo said.

Five Decades Since JFK's Call for a Nuclear Test Ban Treaty

Fifty years ago on Monday, June 10, President John F. Kennedy delivered his eloquent and influential “Strategy of Peace” address on the campus of American University in Washington.

Coming just months after the 1962 Cuban missile crisis drove home the risks of an unbridled nuclear arms race and the dangers of a direct superpower conflict, the speech was intended to send an unambiguous signal to Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev that the United States sought to “avert those confrontations which bring an adversary to a choice of either a humiliating defeat or nuclear war,” as Kennedy phrased it in the speech.

As the essay "JFK's American University Speech Echoes Through Time" in the June issue of Arms Control Today explains, "… the speech offered a revised formula for achieving progress on restricting nuclear weapons testing, a goal that had eluded President Dwight Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Khrushchev for more than six years. Kennedy viewed the nuclear test ban treaty—ideally a comprehensive ban—as an essential first step toward U.S.-Soviet disarmament and a barrier against the spread of nuclear weapons."

Joint Statement by India and Japan Highlights Differences on CTBT

India and Japan released a joint statement May 29 on "strengthening the strategic and global partnership" between the two countries. However, the two states differed significantly in their statements regarding the CTBT. Prime Minister Abe of Japan "stressed the importance of bringing into force the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) at an early date."

However, Prime Minister Singh of India simply reiterated New Delhi's "commitment to its unilateral and voluntary moratorium on nuclear explosive testing," a statement which notably fails to mention the CTBT, the only legally-binding international instrument that prohibits nuclear testing.

IMS Detects Radioactive Gases From N. Korean Nuclear Test

The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) announced on April 23 that its International Monitoring System (IMS) detected radioactive isotopes consistent with the February 12 North Korean nuclear test and announced the discovery on April 23, 2013. The radionuclide station in Takasaki, Japan detected xenon-131m and xenon-133, two radioactive isotopes that are associated with nuclear fission.

The gases detected by the Takasaki station, located approximately 620 miles from the North Korean test site, were produced by a nuclear fission event that occurred at least 50 days before detection. The IMS was able to identify the North Korean test site as a possible source for the noble gases.

Senator Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Lt. Gen. Klotz Urge U.S. Action on CTBT

At an April 11 event hosted by the Arms Control Association, Senator Jeanne Shaheen and Lt. Gen. Frank Klotz (USAF, ret.) urged U.S. ratification of the CTBT. Shaheen noted that ratification of the CTBT will require a great deal of preparation, "But that just means we should start now to chart a path forward for its eventual consideration."

Klotz reiterated his support for the CTBT, saying "the logic for moving forward and ahead on ratification of the CTBT is inescapable." He went on to say that the United States already abides by the requirements of the treaty and is unlikely to resume nuclear testing. Therefore, the United States should gain the full benefits of the CTBT by ratifying the treaty, which would allow it to "rally international pressure against would-be proliferators" and "constrain regional arms races."

Bipartisan Group of Senators Reintroduce Legislation to Expand Aid to Downwinders

Senator Tom Udall of New Mexico and a bipartisan group of senators reintroduced the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RESA) Amendments of 2013 on Friday, April 19. Representative Ray Lujan of New Mexico introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives the same day.

This legislation would go beyond previous bills by extending compensation to uranium workers who were employed after December 31, 1971. It also makes all claimants eligible for medical benefits and the maximum compensation of $150,000, and funds an epidemiological study of the health effects of uranium workers and their families, as well as residents near uranium production sites. In addition, the RECA Amendments 2013 expands the recognized downwind areas to include Arizona, Colorado, Guam, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, Nevada, and Utah.