Showing posts with label WMD. Show all posts
Showing posts with label WMD. Show all posts

7 December 2017

The Story of How South Africa Voluntarily Gave Up Its Nuclear Weapons

Robert Farley
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The Republic of South Africa is the only country in the world to build a nuclear weapons program, then unbuild that program after domestic and international conditions changed. Why did South Africa decide to build nukes, how did it build them and why did it decide to give them up? The answers are largely idiosyncratic, although they may hold some lessons for the future of nuclear weapons development on the Korean Peninsula and elsewhere.

Origins of Program

6 December 2017

The Folly of Deploying US Tactical Nuclear Weapons to South Korea


The mudslinging between US President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and the near-daily handicapping of whether the US and North Korea are bound for war have overshadowed an important debate in South Korea over whether the US should redeploy tactical nuclear weapons (TNW) on ROK territory. Proposals that US government officials and defense experts have floated to ease South Korean worries about the credibility of the US extended deterrent have primarily focused on bolstering US/ROK conventional defensesagainst North Korean aggression. These measures, while necessary in the short-term, may not be sufficient to contain South Korean pressure for either US TNW deployments or development of an indigenous nuclear weapons program over the long-run, especially if the conservative party returns to power. If Washington wants to keep the South Korean nuclear genie in its bottle, the administration may need to draw the ROK more closely into US nuclear planning for the peninsula and elevate the visibility of its own nuclear footprint in and around the country. But this path should only be taken if the US is ready to simultaneously take diplomatic initiatives with North Korea to prevent misperceptions and potential escalation. (Photo: Uriminzokkiri)

5 December 2017

Destroyer of Worlds Taking stock of our nuclear present

By Elaine Scarry

In February 1947, Harper’s Magazine published Henry L. Stimson’s “The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb.” As secretary of war, Stimson had served as the chief military adviser to President Truman, and recommended the attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The terms of his unrepentant apologia, an excerpt of which appears on page 35, are now familiar to us: the risk of a dud made a demonstration too risky; the human cost of a land invasion would be too high; nothing short of the bomb’s awesome lethality would compel Japan to surrender. The bomb was the only option.

1 December 2017

Cyber and Space Weapons Are Making Nuclear Deterrence Trickier


Stability was an overriding concern at last week’s Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on nuclear command authority, the first in four decades. Senators wondered aloud whether one individual — the American president — should have the sole authority to direct a nuclear attack. The focus is understandable, but there are other challenges to nuclear stability that deserve more attention than they’re getting.

26 November 2017

With technology, these researchers are figuring out North Korea’s nuclear secrets

By Anna Fifield

There were reports going around last month that North Korea had tested another solid-fuel missile engine, a type of engine that can be deployed much faster than the older liquid-fueled ones. Kim Jong Un’s media outlets hadn’t bragged about it — as they had done previously — so the experts at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies’ nonproliferation center got to work. They figured that the North Korean rocket scientists would have used the same immovable concrete block they used for an engine test last year.

25 November 2017

War, Nuclear War and the Law

By George Friedman

The U.S. Senate held hearings last week on the president’s authority to use nuclear weapons. The trigger for the hearings was the North Korea situation, and the fear among some that President Donald Trump might launch a reckless nuclear attack against the North Koreans. The question senators were asking was what the power of the president was to initiate nuclear war unilaterally.

This has long been a burning question, but one that has been intentionally ignored for decades. But this question involves not only the use of nuclear weapons, but the president’s authority to initiate all kinds of war without congressional approval. The Constitution states that the president is commander in chief of the armed forces. It also says that Congress has the power to declare war. On the surface, this seems a fairly clear system. The president is in command of the military; however, the authority to go to war rests with Congress.

24 November 2017



During the tense days of the Cold War, the United States deployed many kinds of small-yield nuclear weapons in the field. The “logic” of the ladder of escalation led Washington to field nuclear landmines, anti-ship demolition mines to be attached to the hulls of ships by atomic frog men, and even close-range rocket-propelled nuclear weapons. We managed to avoid all-out nuclear war at each rung on the ladder through a combination of luck and careful efforts to avoid miscalculation.

23 November 2017



Editor’s Note: This is the eleventh installment of “Southern (Dis)Comfort,” a new series from War on the Rocks and the Stimson Center. The series seeks to unpack the dynamics of intensifying competition — military, economic, diplomatic — in Southern Asia, principally between China, India, Pakistan, and the United States. Catch up on the rest of the seriesEarlier this month, an anonymous senior U.S. administration official offered an explanation for why North Korea pursued nuclear weapons. “North Korea’s goal is not to simply acquire these horrific weapons to maintain the status quo in the Peninsula,” the official noted. “[I]t is seeking these weapons in order to fundamentally change that status quo. Its primary goal, as stated … is to reunify [with] South Korea. These weapons are part of the plan to reunify with South Korea.”

21 November 2017

President Trump and the Risks of Nuclear War


On Tuesday, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing — the first of its kind in over 40 years — exploring the president’s authority to order the use of nuclear weapons. I was one of three witnesses, the others being former STRATCOM commander Gen. Bob Kehler and former Acting Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Brian McKeon. You can read my prepared testimony hereSenator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) convened the hearings in response to concerns raised by many experts and political leaders about President Donald Trump’s fitness to wield the most fearsome power of the presidency: the ability to initiate a nuclear war.

20 November 2017

Can Two Nuclear Powers Fight a Conventional War?

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The Pentagon just wargamed that scenario as part of its effort to determine what it needs for 21st-century deterrence.

As the U.S. military reviews the makeup of its nuclear arsenal, among the questions being asked is: Can two nuclear powers fight a conventional war without going nuclear?

Just last week, this scenario was among the mock battles when U.S. Strategic Command ran its annual Global Thunder nuclear wargame, Army Brig. Gen. Greg Bowen, the command’s deputy director of global operations, said Thursday at the Defense One Summit.

“It gets into a very difficult calculus,” Bowen said. “It’s clearly a place that we don’t want to go.”

15 November 2017

A history of US nuclear weapons in South Korea

Hans M. Kristensen and Robert S. Norris


During the Cold War, the United States deployed nuclear weapons in South Korea continuously for 33 years, from 1958 to 1991. The South Korean-based nuclear arsenal peaked at an all-time high of approximately 950 warheads in 1967. Since the last US nuclear weapons were withdrawn from South Korea in 1991, the United States has protected South Korea and Japan under a “nuclear umbrella” using nuclear bombers and submarines based elsewhere. While defense hawks in Seoul and Washington have, in 2017, called for the United States to redeploy tactical nuclear weapons to South Korea, the authors argue against this idea. Doing so, they say, would provide no resolution of the crisis over North Korea’s nuclear weapons and would likely increase nuclear risks. Redeployment would also have serious implications for broader regional issues because it would likely be seen by China and Russia as further undermining their security.

14 November 2017

Entanglement: Chinese and Russian Perspectives on Non-nuclear Weapons and Nuclear Risks

The entanglement of non-nuclear weapons with nuclear weapons and their enabling capabilities is exacerbating the risk of inadvertent escalation. Yet so far, the debate about the severity of this risk has been almost exclusively limited to American participants. So Carnegie teams from Russia and China set out to examine the issue and answer two questions: How serious are the escalation risks arising from entanglement? And, how do the authors’ views compare to those of their countries’ strategic communities?

Defining Entanglement

Entanglement has various dimensions: dual-use delivery systems that can be armed with nuclear and non-nuclear warheads; the commingling of nuclear and non-nuclear forces and their support structures; and non-nuclear threats to nuclear weapons and their associated command, control, communication, and information (C3I) systems. Technological developments are currently increasing the entanglement of non-nuclear weapons with nuclear weapons and their enabling capabilities.

Can Two Nuclear Powers Fight a Conventional War?

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The Pentagon just wargamed that scenario as part of its effort to determine what it needs for 21st-century deterrence. As the U.S. military reviews the makeup of its nuclear arsenal, among the questions being asked is: Can two nuclear powers fight a conventional war without going nuclear? Just last week, this scenario was among the mock battles when U.S. Strategic Command ran its annual Global Thunder nuclear wargame, Army Brig. Gen. Greg Bowen, the command’s deputy director of global operations, said Thursday at the Defense One Summit.

13 November 2017



In the 2010 review of U.S. nuclear posture, President Barack Obama’s administration, based on advice from military commanders and the extant global threat environment, concluded that the United States could ensure effective nuclear deterrence without fielding new nuclear warheads or warheads with new military capabilities. But even while foreclosing such options for the Obama administration, the 2010 review made clear, as did the nuclear posture reviews of the two previous administrations, that the nation must retain a capability to develop and field such warheads if they are required in the future.

12 November 2017

Does Japan Really Want to Go Nuclear?

By Richard A Bitzinge for S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS)

What would it take for Japan to create a nuclear weapons program? More specifically, is such an endeavor feasible? To answer this question, Richard Bitzinger outlines and explores the necessary infrastructure requirements, economic investments and political maneuvers that would underpin the creation of a Japanese nuclear program. While Japan might be able to fund a nuclear program, Bitzinger maintains that management of the inevitable public resistance to the project would constitute a significant hurdle.


11 November 2017


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China is the only nuclear weapon state recognized by the Nonproliferation Treaty that is actively expanding its nuclear arsenal. Its nuclear forces have increased modestly from an estimated 130 to 200 warheads in 2006 to an estimated 170 to 260 today. The qualitative changes to its nuclear forces have been more significant, with the introduction of more mobile solid-fueled missiles, multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles (MIRVs), and an emerging fleet of nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs).

Facing Russian threat, NATO boosts operations for the first time since the Cold War

BRUSSELS — As the specter of conflict with Russia looms over Europe, NATO defense ministers decided Wednesday to expand the alliance’s operations for the first time since the Cold War, sharpen its focus on cyber operations, and boost its capability to respond to Kremlin aggression. 

The moves came as tensions with Russia remain the highest they have been in the nearly three decades since the end of the Cold War. U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis briefed fellow defense ministers Wednesday morning about Russian violations of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, underlining the nuclear risk that is a worst-case consequence of the bitter back-and-forth. 

7 November 2017

Nuclear Triad: Pentagon Taking Steps to Modernize Global Strike Weapons

By Jon Harper

As potential adversaries enhance their long-range weapons, the United States is moving forward with plans to bolster its own global strike capabilities. The stakes are high as officials try to keep their programs on time and on budget.

Russia, China and North Korea are modernizing their strategic weapon systems, defense officials and independent analysts have noted. At the same time, tensions are boiling in the Asia-Pacific following Pyongyang’s recent tests of intercontinental ballistic missiles and nuclear warheads that could potentially reach the U.S. homeland.

To bolster deterrence and assure anxious allies, the Air Force has flown long-range bombers such as the B-52 near the Korean Peninsula and conducted an ICBM test without a warhead. The Navy has deployed ballistic missile submarines to the region, and allowed officials from allied nations to tour the USS Pennsylvania while it was docked in Guam.

“A lot of that diplomatically is just a show of force,” Gen. Robin Rand, commander of Air Force Global Strike Command, said during a meeting with reporters at the Air Force Association’s Air, Space and Cyber Conference in National Harbor, Maryland. It signaled that “we’re ready to fight tonight,” he added.

4 November 2017

Can Kim Jong-un Control His Nukes?

Any travelers waiting for the few flights out of Pyongyang International Airport early on August 29 were treated to the spectacle of a North Korean intermediate-range missile blasting off only a few miles beyond the runways. Just before six in the morning, a Hwasong-12 missile, also known as the KN-17, with a purported range of nearly four thousand miles, arced northeastward over North Korea and the Sea of Japan. Eight minutes later, it passed over Hokkaido, the northernmost of Japan’s four home islands. Roughly six minutes after that, and approximately 730 miles east of Hokkaido, it broke apart and fell into the Pacific Ocean. 

2 November 2017

How a State Department Study Prevented Nuclear War With China

By Franz-Stefan Gady

The People’s Republic of China (PRC) under Mao Zedong was the nuclear “rogue state” of the 1960s in the eyes of the United States. The PRC was viewed by officials in two consecutive U.S. administrations — John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson — as both extremist and irrational, a country where the prevailing U.S. Cold War strategies of containment and deterrence would not apply. President Kennedy reportedly saw a nuclear China as “the great menace in the future to humanity, the free world, and freedom on earth.” Lyndon B. Johnson told a reporter in 1964 during the ongoing presidential campaign that “we can’t let [Barry] Goldwater [Johnson’s opponent] and Red China both get the bomb at the same time. Then the shit would really hit the fan.”