The CSS Blog

Prometheus-Bound: An End to Nuclear Explosive Tests

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Courtesy Steve Snodgrass/flickr

This article was originally published by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) on 29 August 2016.

Myth has it that Prometheus stole fire from the Gods and brought it down from Mount Olympus to Earth for the betterment of humankind. Another, more deadly type of fire was brought to the world on 16 July 1945 when the first nuclear explosive device was detonated at the Alamogordo Test Range in the desert of New Mexico, USA. In the intervening seven decades, nine different States have carried out over 2000 nuclear explosions, polluting the world’s oceans, atmosphere and land with devastating health effects on many millions of people and the environment.

Suffering from the radiological effects on human health and the environment, Kazakhstan took the initiative in promoting the adoption of 29 August as the International Day Against Nuclear Tests by the United Nations General Assembly on 2 December 2009 through Resolution 64/35.

It marks the day on which President Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan finally closed down the Semipalatinsk nuclear test site on 29 August 1991, signaling that nuclear explosions would never again resonate against the Degelen mountains and in the plains of Central Asia.

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Sanctioning the DPRK? This Time It’s All about Implementation Not Design

South Korea missiles on display.

This article was originally published by E-International Relations (E-IR) on 14 March 2016.

In the wake of the nuclear and missile tests by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK or North Korea) calls were renewed for further sanctions on the regime in Pyongyang. It was claimed, as it was in 2006, 2009, and 2013, that with China fully on board these sanctions had a chance of greater success in producing a cessation of the DPRK’s nuclear ambitions. The weeks of discussion between the US and China to craft the sanctions also indicated that the 2016 resolution would be a landmark agreement. Surprisingly then, in the immediate assessments, it may be that for the first time it is Russia (rather than China) that has become the ‘wild card’ regarding sanctions and the DPRK.

However, there are reasons to doubt whether extended sanctions will produce the outcomes that key players want to achieve and also how much of a step change these sanctions actually present. The reason for my caution is two-fold. First, this claim is based on a judgement that China’s interests are now more in-step with the US and other powers than they had previously been (and that Russia won’t be a problem). Second, it suggests that a key stumbling block was in the scope and scale of the sanctions rather than their implementation.

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US and South Korea: A Show of Force, But Running Out of Options?

US troops rendering honors to the Republic of Korea Navy destroyer (ROKS). Photo: US Navy/flickr

North Korea’s third nuclear test provided the ideal opportunity for the United States and South Korea to respond with their own displays of military muscle. Two days after the test, South Korea showcased a cruise missile that Seoul claims can hit targets anywhere in the North. This month was also the first time in almost two decades that an American nuclear submarine armed with Tomahawk cruise missiles entered South Korean waters.

Thus, the endless cycle of North Korean provocation, joint military drills and verbal war continues. Yet it remains difficult to find to find good analysis on next steps that need to be taken to address the impasse on the Peninsula. » More

“The Longest Sought, Hardest Fought Prize” – A New Boost for the CTBT?

A nuclear weapon is detonated at Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands in 1946. Image: International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons/flickr

In defiance of international warnings, North Korea recently went ahead with its third nuclear test. On 12 February, an explosion was set off in the country’s northeast, close to the location of the two previous nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009. Pyongyang promptly declared the test a success, with its state-owned news agency announcing that the nuclear device was smaller and lighter yet more powerful than previous devices. International condemnation was swift and unambiguous. The UN Security Council – including North Korea‘s sole major ally China – strongly condemned the test and vowed to take further action against Pyongyang.

Since 1998, North Korea is the only country known to have tested a nuclear weapon, an act which is now regarded as highly provocative and the behavior of a ‘rogue state’. And yet nuclear testing is still not banned under international law. Indeed, the treaty that would prohibit all nuclear tests – the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) – has now been in limbo for more than 15 years.   » More