Top News North Korea warns ‘vicious’ US sanctions risk progress on talks CNN UN Condemns N. Korea Rights Violations, Nuclear Spending Voice of America Alexander, Top Senate Appropriator for Civilian Nuke-Weapon Agency, to Retire Defense Daily Putin: Nothing to stop new states joining nuclear pact with U.S. and Russia Reuters East Asia North Korea warns ‘vicious’ US sanctions risk progress on talks CNN12/17/18 North Korea is warning that recent US sanctions could take relations with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea back to the bristling tension of last year and endanger efforts to remove nuclear weapons from the Korean Peninsula. The warnings come after the US Treasury Department issued sanctions against three high-level North Korean officials last week that seemed aimed at driving a wedge between President Donald Trump, who has spoken glowingly of leader Kim Jong Un, and the rest of the administration, which is pursuing a “maximum pressure” campaign against Pyongyang. UN Condemns N. Korea Rights Violations, Nuclear Spending Voice of America12/17/18 The U.N. General Assembly on Monday condemned North Korea’s “systematic, widespread and gross violations of human rights” and its diversion of resources into pursing nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles over the welfare of its people. It noted “with concern” that over 10 million North Koreans are estimated to be undernourished and that there is “an unacceptably high prevalence of chronic and acute malnutrition” in the reclusive northeast Asian nation. North Korea Turns Coal Into Gas to Weather Sanctions Wall Street Journal12/17/18 North Korea has accelerated a little-known program to use its abundant coal supply to produce synthetic gas, helping the isolated nation reduce its dependence on foreign oil and withstand sanctions aimed at curbing its nuclear program. Pyongyang is relying on coal gasification to buttress its economy against United Nations curbs on its petroleum imports, according to foreign officials and experts. Russia/FSU/Europe Putin: Nothing to stop new states joining nuclear pact with U.S. and Russia Reuters12/18/18 President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday that there was nothing to stop Russia and the United States holding talks with other countries about the possibility of them joining a landmark arms control treaty that is at risk of unraveling. The United States delivered Russia a 60-day ultimatum earlier this month to come clean about what Washington says is a violation of the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty between Moscow and Washington. U.S. Nuclear Policy Cybersecurity failures raise threat of ‘deadly missile attacks,’ Pentagon watchdog says NBC News12/18/18 Cybersecurity lapses as basic as neglecting to encrypt classified flash drives and failing to put physical locks on critical computer servers leave the United States vulnerable to deadly missile attacks, the Defense Department’s internal watchdog says in a new report. The report, dated Dec. 10 but not made public until Friday, sums up eight months of investigation of the nation’s ballistic missile defense system by the Pentagon’s Office of Inspector General, or IG. Alexander, Top Senate Appropriator for Civilian Nuke-Weapon Agency, to Retire Defense Daily12/17/18 Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), who this year secured full construction funding for a crucial defense-uranium plant in his home state, on Monday announced he will leave the Senate after 2020. Alexander chairs the crucial Senate Appropriations energy and water subcommittee. Opinion and Analysis The highly questionable case for new low-yield options Arms Control WonkMichael Krepon 12/17/18 A United States whose power dwarfed that of the Kremlin was wise to encourage the removal from the field of tactical nuclear weapons that posed the hardest challenges of safety and security. The smartest and most ethical approach to retaliation against a weaker foe is by conventional arms. The United States and Its Allies Need to Understand China’s North Korea Policy Atlantic CouncilTaisuke Mibae 12/17/18 When it comes to North Korea, China prioritizes stability over all else, including denuclearization. For Beijing, North Korea is neither a primary challenge to its stability, nor does Pyongyang’s nuclear ambition pose a direct threat to China’s national security. Instead, Beijing believes that it is Washington’s reaction to North Korea that in many ways represents the most immediate threat to regional stability. Unilaterally Cutting U.S. ICBMs Would Undermine Prospects for Arms Control National Institute for Public PolicyMatthew R. Costlow 12/17/18 A common argument against the United States retaining its ICBMs is that their elimination could benefit arms control by leading to a reciprocal Russian move. However, it seems more likely that Russia would pocket the concession and demand more.