You probably missed the obituary. But on July 7, when North Korean media announced the death of the 88-year-old senior North Korean official Jon Pyong Ho, it highlighted an important but largely ignored development in Pyongyang’s effort to build weapons of mass destruction (WMD). While most observers focus on Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile tests, they ignore the shift happening in North Korea’s WMD community: a newer generation is replacing the North Korean scientists who played a key role in developing Pyongyang’s WMDs. This new generation will play a central role in determining whether North Korea will become a (small) nuclear power. » More
Last week, US officials began talks in Moscow regarding Russia’s violation of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. The agreement bans the testing or deployment of intermediate range cruise and ballistic missiles, those with a range between 500km and 5500 km. In its annual 2014 arms control Compliance Report, the Department of State noted that Russia had violated the pact when it deployed a ground-launched cruise missile, whose unique Iskandar system can fire both cruise and ballistic missiles and a system Russia plans to deploy to Crimea. This cruise missile is not a new development; it was first tested in 2007 and has been deployed in the banned ground-launched configuration since 2009. Nor is it Russia’s only INF violation. Moscow also has converted a single-warhead ICBM into a three-warhead intermediate-range ballistic missile, a violation missing from the 2014 Compliance Report. » More
Given the intensity of media focus on a series of crises this year—Iraq, Syria, Ukraine, Ebola, and the South China Sea to name just a few—readers may be forgiven for having failed to notice that another important, though more incremental, development has also occurred. With each passing month it becomes clearer that a mood of nuclear realism is unfolding in US strategic policy. While President Obama is still remembered most clearly in the public mind for the anti-nuclear language in his Prague speech of 2009, a string of events in 2013–14 suggest that a shift of emphasis is occurring in relation to nuclear weapons. » More
Last week, the North Korean regime resumed its policy of provocation and destabilization on the Korean Peninsula by firing two ballistic missiles into the eastern sea and over 100 rockets and artillery shells off its east coast; the missiles landed within a few hundred yards of the South Korean border.
I spoke about these developments and their implications for security on the Korean Peninsula with Sue Terry, currently a research scholar at Columbia University’s Weatherhead Institute and formerly a Central Intelligence Agency officer and director of Korea, Japan, and Oceanic Affairs at the National Security Council. In this interview, Ms. Terry discusses her recent article, where she argues that North and South Korea, as well as the regional powers, should focus on unifying the two countries.
What follows is an edited version of our conversation, which took place last week. » More
After four years of internal deliberations, the U.S. Air Force has decided to empty 50 Minuteman III ICBMs from 50 of the nation’s 450 ICBM silos. Instead of destroying the empty silos, however, they will be kept “warm” to allow reloading the missiles in the future if necessary.
The decision to retain the silos rather than destroy them is in sharp contrast to the destruction of 100 empty silos currently underway at Malmstrom AFB and F.E. Warren AFB. Those silos were emptied of Minuteman and MX ICBMs in 2005-2008 by the Bush administration and are scheduled to be destroyed by 2016. » More