Archive for 'Blog'

Nuclear Recount: New Report on Asia’s Nuclear Stockpiles

sipri-2013Several nuclear armed countries in Asia have expanded their arsenal over the past year according to a new report. China, India, and Pakistan added 10 to 20 nuclear weapons to their stockpiles and made qualitative improvements to their delivery systems. Last week, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) – an international security think tank based in Sweden – published their latest SIPRI Yearbook, a helpful and comprehensive reference guide on global armaments.

Data from SIPRI Yearbook, 2010-2013. Estimates from January of year listed.

Data from SIPRI Yearbook, 2010-2013. Estimates from January of year listed.


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RPI Author Hui Zhang: China’s Nuclear Weapon No-First Use Pledge is Real, Promotes Disarmament

Dr. Hui Zhang, a participant in the RPI’s Nuclear Debates in Asia project focusing on China and senior scholar at Harvard University’s Project on Managing the Atom, recently wrote an op-ed for The Diplomat:

On April 16, the Chinese Ministry of Defense released the eighth edition of China’s bi-annual white paper on defense since 1998. However, unlike the previous editions, this one does not reiterate China’s long-standing doctrine of no-first-use nuclear weapons. The obvious omission has sparked a debate over whether China is changing its nuclear doctrine. If China abandons its no-first-use nuclear pledge, which has guided China’s nuclear strategy since  its first nuclear test in 1964, it would severely undermine the global disarmament process, potentially preventing the U.S. and Russian from further reducing their nuclear arsenals and even encouraging the U.S. to expand its nuclear forces. Is China really changing its nuclear policy? (more…)

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Reader’s Choice: The RPI’s Top 5 Policy Alerts

The RPI recently published its 50th Policy Alert. We’re celebrating by bringing back the top 5 most widely read Policy Alerts. Thank you for your continued readership and support!

  1. Policy Alert #45: Asian Powers Comment on French Intervention in Mali (February 2013)
  2. Policy Alert #48: Lessons from Cyprus: Rising Powers Comment on the Bank Bailout and Financial Globalization (March 2013)
  3. Policy Alert #50: Boston Marathon Bombings Elicit Mixed Reactions from Asian Powers (May 2013)
  4. Policy Alert #33: Sentiments from Asia’s Rising Powers on Winning & losing at the Olympics (July 2012)
  5. Policy Alert #44: Heightened Tensions in the East China Sea: Reactions from China and Japan (January 2013)
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Worldviews of Aspiring Powers Review, Meredith Oyen

Reviewed by Meredith Oyen (University of Maryland Baltimore County)
Published on H-Diplo (April, 2013)
Commissioned by Seth Offenbach 

Cover_LargeThe impact of domestic politics on foreign policy is a subject of long-standing interest for both historians of American foreign relations and political scientists concerned with international relations. A new volume edited by Henry R. Nau and Deepa M. Ollapally, Worldviews of Aspiring Powers: Domestic Foreign Policy Debates in China, India, Iran, Japan, and Russia, brings together prominent scholars from across the world to explore the domestic dimension of foreign policy in five important countries. The core argument of this book is that domestic debates powerfully affect foreign policy, sometimes exerting as much influence as external factors. The authors consider the implications of the contesting worldviews not only for each country’s foreign policy, but also for U.S. foreign policy responses. Worldviews of Aspiring Powers therefore offers both a model for future studies of domestic debates in other rising or aspiring powers as well as some thoughtful advice for policymakers.

In order to develop a common vocabulary for discussing and analyzing these debates across the countries under study, Nau’s introductory chapter discusses three aspects of foreign policy under debate everywhere: the scope, means, and goals of policy. By analyzing these three aspects across three broad categories of worldviews–national, regional, and global–he sets up a broad framework of twenty-seven possible worldviews, which the authors of the individual chapter then use as a guide to explore the unique variations of the country under their consideration. Nau makes clear from the outset that reality does not fit the generalized model perfectly, and each country under consideration possesses attributes that make it unique.  (more…)

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Visiting Scholar Yogesh Joshi: Navigating Pakistan’s Nuclear and Domestic Politics

pakistan-nwJogesh Joshi, visiting scholar at the Sigur Center and Ph.D. candidate at Jawaharlal Nehru University, and Frank O’Donnell recently co-wrote an article for the East-West Center:

Pakistan is on the verge of a historic moment. For the first time in its national existence, a civilian government completed a full term of office in March of this year. A caretaker government is now administering the country until new elections are held this May. Many argue that if all goes well, successful national elections and a smooth power transition would help ensure that democratization is progressing in a country which has hitherto been ruled mostly by its generals.

However, democracy or no democracy, one trend which continues to unnerve the international community is Pakistan’s nuclear program. The country reportedly has the world’s fifth largest nuclear arsenal and it is projected to expand beyond that of France in the next few years. But this vertical proliferation is not only quantitative in nature; it is also qualitative, insofar as Pakistan is slowly but steadily diversifying the fissile base of its nuclear arsenal from uranium to plutonium. Plutonium-based weapons, unlike uranium ones, are more suitable for miniaturization because they require less fissile material. It also allows for both better concealment and swifter movement of nuclear arsenals. (more…)

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RPI Author Hui Zhang: China’s Cautious Moves on Nuclear Power

Workers in front of China's Qinshan No. 2 Nuclear Power Plant (Source: AP)

Workers in front of China’s Qinshan No. 2 Nuclear Power Plant (Source: AP)

Dr. Hui Zhang, Nuclear Debates in Asia project author and senior scholar at Harvard University’s Project on Managing the Atom, and Shangui Zhao recently co-wrote in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists:

From 2005 to 2011, China rapidly developed its nuclear power capacity. In 2010 alone, it began operations at two new reactors and broke ground on 10 more, accounting for more than 60 percent of new reactor construction worldwide and making the Chinese nuclear industry by far the fastest-growing in the world. By the end of 2010, China had 14 nuclear reactors in operation with a total capacity of about 11 gigawatts electric, or GWe. That was still a relatively small amount — in contrast, the United States had 104 commercial reactors with a total capacity of about 100 GWe in 2010 — but China was pursuing ambitious plans to rapidly expand.

Then came the tsunami and earthquake that led to Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi meltdown in March 2011, the world’s worst nuclear accident since the Chernobyl disaster in 1986. After Fukushima, China changed course dramatically, slowing the pace of nuclear development to focus on safety. The slower pace is reassuring, but to really be a leader on nuclear safety, China should speed up the adoption of new laws on nuclear energy and enhance the independence and authority of nuclear safety regulators. (more…)

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U.S.-South Korea Agree to Punt on Nuclear Cooperation Agreement for Two Years

President Obama during before a speech on U.S.-South Korea issues (Source:AP/Susan Walsh)

President Obama during before a speech on U.S.-South Korea issues (Source: AP)

When President Barack Obama and South Korean President Park Geun-hye sit down during a meeting early next month, one item will be missing from the table: a long-term renewed nuclear cooperation agreement.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry aimed to hammer out a final long-term deal before the summit, but South Korea’s Foreign Ministry said today that the two parties agreed to delay expiration of the current deal by two years until 2016. According to South Korea, while there has been “some meaningful progress” on demonstrating their side’s position, negotiators will use this additional time to address “the complexity of details and technologies.”

As this blog has covered in the past, South Korean negotiators would like to secure new rights to enrichment and reprocessing of U.S.-origin material not granted in the expiring 1972 agreement, which sets rules for the export of U.S. nuclear technology and material. The Wall Street Journal writes:

South Korea has argued that it needs to be able to enrich uranium and reprocess spent fuel to provide a steady supply of nuclear fuel for its fleet of 23 nuclear reactors. It also says it needs the ability to reprocess the spent fuel in order to better store the waste, which it says it is running out of room to store.

The Obama administration and other critics have argued that since these technologies can manufacture fuel for both nuclear reactors and nuclear weapons, a revised nuclear cooperation agreement with these new arrangements could set a poor precedent for future nuclear energy trade, provide a future pathway for a South Korean nuclear bomb, and harm the nonproliferation regime.

Reaction in the South Korean media has been negative towards the United States. In a recent editorial, the newspaper JoonAng Ilbo felt that “Washington does not seem to trust South Korea as much as it reiterates blood-tight relations with Korea are as important as a linchpin, since it does not agree to revising the pact.” The editorial doubted that an additional two years would yield a favorable agreement: “It is merely a makeshift move to avoid a dispute.”

In another editorial by the newspaper Chosun Ilbo, U.S. negotiator Robert J. Einhorn was referred to as a “nonproliferation Taliban” for his laser focus on the proliferation risks of reprocessing and enrichment technologies. The editorial contended that the breakdown of talks so close to the U.S.-South Korean alliance’s upcoming 60th anniversary was a slap in the face by the United States to its Korean ally.

Moving forward, the two nations will continue to “hold talks on a regular basis to intensify consultation,” according to a diplomatic source quoted in Chosun Ilbo. Since negotiations began in October 2010, there have been six rounds of talks. Seoul has indicated that another two rounds over the next two years should be sufficient to make their case.

President Park will be in Washington, DC for a summit with President Obama on May 7. She will also address a joint-session of the U.S. Congress on the following day. Be sure to follow the Rising Power Initiative’s “Nuclear Debates in Asia” project on Twitter @Westmyer and this blog as events develop for more news and analysis.

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Nuclear Debates in Asia on Center Stage at Conference

2013 Carnegie International Nuclear Policy Conference (Source: Carnegie/Kaveh Sardari)

On April 8-9, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace hosted its biennial Nuclear Policy Conference in Washington, DC. The gathering convened government officials, academics, think tank experts, and private citizens to engage in discussions on nuclear energy, nuclear weapon, and nonproliferation issues around the globe. The Rising Powers Initiative’s Nuclear Debates in Asia project was there to see many of the project’s countries and issues prominently discussed at the event, including nuclear debates in China, India, Japan, and South Korea.

In this blog post, we highlight the major exchanges related to the Nuclear Debates in Asia project:

  • China’s challenge to pursue ambitious nuclear energy goals alongside regulatory oversight
  • How China defends a limited role for nuclear weapons in its defense strategy
  • Indian perspectives on the nonproliferation regime and nuclear energy agendas of emerging powers
  • India’s expansive nuclear energy plans
  • Lessons learned for Japan and India after the accident at Fukushima nuclear plant
  • One viewpoint within South Korea on how to respond to its northern neighbor’s recent provocations
  • South Korea’s approach to balancing nonproliferation concerns with spent fuel challenges through reprocessing


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RPI Author Mike Mochizuki: Getting Kim Jong Un’s Attention

Kim Jong Un speaks with a general on the balcony (Source: AP)

Dr. Mike Mochizuki, Nuclear Debates in Asia project co-director and associate dean of the Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University, and Michael O’Hanlon recently co-wrote in the New York Times:

Nothing about the international response to North Korea’s third nuclear test in February or subsequent provocations has been unreasonable. The crisis is entirely of Pyongyang’s making. But it is possible that the hard-line approach taken by Washington, Seoul and other capitals to the North Korean bluster, brinkmanship and bombast has been far less than optimal.

We need a firm policy. North Korea must pay a price for its irresponsible and dangerous behavior, and know that the world is united in standing against it. The resolve must begin with the U.S.-South Korean military alliance but extend to other nations, most notably China, North Korea’s only ally and main benefactor.

But there are a couple of problems. One is that China is uneasy about jeopardizing stability next to its borders and only goes along with sanctions reluctantly. Indeed, one possible explanation for North Korea’s behavior is that it is seeking to spook leaders in Beijing so severely that they will be even more averse to applying any further sanctions, perhaps after another North Korean nuclear test.

And the worse this crisis gets, the more it increases the odds of North Korea’s young leader, Kim Jong Un, further entrenching himself in hard-line positions from which it will be difficult to backtrack later. Among other things, it would raise the odds that he will seek to accelerate and expand nuclear weapons production activities.

We need a more creative policy should there be another crisis or a substantial worsening of this one (beyond a firing of a medium-range missile, for example). More sanctions might be needed. But new sanctions should sunset automatically, say after two years, unless Pyongyang tests another bomb, expands nuclear production or carries out another aggressive act leading to loss of life. (more…)

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Nuclear Debates in Asia Digest: What to Do with Nuclear Waste? Domestic Debates in Japan and South Korea

Countries with nuclear power in their energy portfolio eventually face a common and difficult challenge: what to do with the radioactive waste once its life as reactor fuel is over? As policymakers develop management solutions to the great quantity of dangerous byproducts, those decisions must coexist with domestic politics, tightening budgets, and national security and global nonproliferation goals.

Japan and South Korea are in the midst of a domestic debate on how to address this spent fuel challenge. Their governments currently envision giving spent fuel a new life through a process called reprocessing whereby radioactive waste is removed from a reactor and later chemically treated to separate and recover fissionable plutonium from irradiated nuclear fuel. Advocates of this approach argue that reprocessing could produce new fuel for advanced nuclear reactors and reduce the relative amount of high-level radioactive waste in a country’s stockpile. Many nonproliferation groups, however, argue that this process is too similar to what it takes to make ingredients for a nuclear weapon, is too costly compared to alternative options, and that the spread of these technologies increases the risk of proliferation.

This Nuclear Debates in Asia Digest looks at the following issues:

  • Domestic debate on reprocessing in Japan and South Korea
  • Highlights the major issues facing U.S. negotiators as they seek to renew a nuclear cooperation agreement with South Korea
  • How reprocessing decisions interact with nonproliferation and national security


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