Nuclear Policy News – June 6, 2019

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Top News

Trump, Macron downplay differences over Iran
The Hill

North Korea’s Yongbyon Nuclear Center: Continuing Activity at the Uranium Enrichment Plant
38 North

Russia’s Putin warns nuclear arms control system risks breaking down

East Asia

US intel shows Saudi Arabia escalated its missile program with help from China
The US government has obtained intelligence that Saudi Arabia has significantly escalated its ballistic missile program with the help of China, three sources with direct knowledge of the matter said, a development that threatens decades of US efforts to limit missile proliferation in the Middle East. The previously unreported classified intelligence indicates Saudi Arabia has expanded both its missile infrastructure and technology through recent purchases from China.

North Korea: Trump preparing for an ‘aggressive war’ against us
The Washington Times6/5/19
Top North Korean officials on Wednesday said President Trump’s diplomatic outreach is little more than a front and that Washington is secretly plotting an “aggressive war.” The harsh words came in direct response to the Pentagon’s revamped Indo-Pacific Strategy, released late last week. The lengthy document, the release of which coincided with a major speech in Asia by acting Defense Secretary Patrick M. Shanahan, refers to North Korea as a “rogue state.” North Korean officials took issue with that language and said it proves that despite Mr. Trump’s attempts at diplomacy, the U.S. wants war.

North Korea’s Yongbyon Nuclear Center: Continuing Activity at the Uranium Enrichment Plant
38 North6/5/19
Recent commercial satellite imagery of North Korea’s Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Center indicates that operations at the Uranium Enrichment Plant (UEP) remain ongoing, while there is only minimal significant activity throughout the rest of the complex. River dredging continues, as we have reported previously, and we also note the addition earlier this year of an elevated conduit at the Radioisotope Production Facility (RPF) that connects the RPF to two nearby industrial type buildings.

North Korea’s Latest Nuclear Test Was More Powerful Than We Thought
Popular Mechanics6/5/19
North Korea’s most recent nuclear test was far more powerful than the U.S. government claimed. A new analysis of the 2017 test reveals it had an explosive yield of approximately 250 kilotons, or about fifteen times greater than the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima. The new estimate is dramatically bigger than previous North Korean nuclear tests, lending credence to claims that a thermonuclear device was tested.

Middle East

German foreign minister headed to Iran to save nuclear deal
Deutsche Welle6/6/19
Heiko Maas has announced he will travel to Tehran next week in an effort to salvage the Iran nuclear deal. Maas, the first German diplomat to visit Iran in over two years, will meet counterpart Mohammad Zarif on Monday.

Trump, Macron downplay differences over Iran
The Hill6/6/19
President Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday sought to downplay any split over how to keep Tehran from getting nuclear weapons, despite a rift between the two leaders over the U.S. withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal.

US officials say tensions with Iran are easing but they remain ‘vigilant’
A month after sending an aircraft carrier to the Middle East in reaction to intelligence the US claims it had showing Iran was preparing to attack US troops, military tensions appear to be easing, according to several US officials.

Trump’s hard-line approach to Iran is a ‘strategic mistake,’ former US energy secretary says
At the Ecosperity Conference in Singapore, Ernest J. Moniz, who is currently the CEO of non-profit firms Energy Futures Initiative and Nuclear Threat Initiative, said Washington’s hardening approach risks provoking Iran not to comply with the 2015 nuclear agreement.


Russia Claims to Successfully Test Anti-Ballistic Missile
The Epoch Times6/5/19
Russia said that it has tested a new anti-ballistic missile designed to protect Russia’s borders from incoming missiles. The country’s Ministry of Defense test-launched the weapon at the Sary-Shagan missile testing site in Kazakhstan, according to the Moscow Times.

South Asia

Nuclear tests in Polynesia: France acknowledges the harm caused to local people
More than 50 years after testing nuclear weapons in Polynesia, the French government has finally come clean regarding its harmful effects on the local population’s health.

Multilateral Arms Control

Russia’s Putin warns nuclear arms control system risks breaking down
Russian President Vladimir Putin warned on Thursday there was a significant risk that the international system for nuclear arms control could break down, saying talks with Washington on extending the New START nuclear arms treaty had yet to begin.

Putin says Russia prepared to drop START nuclear arms treaty with US
The Straits Times6/6/19
“If no one feels like extending the agreement – New START – well, we won’t do it then,” Mr Putin said at an economic forum in Saint Petersburg, referring to the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, which caps the countries’ number of nuclear warheads.

U.S. Nuclear Policy

Trump’s decision to sell bombs and technology to Saudi Arabia has sparked fears of a nuclear arms race. Now even Republicans are pushing back.
Business Insider6/6/19
President Donald Trump’s decision to sell bombs and weapons technology to Saudi Arabia has lawmakers on both sides of the aisle sounding the alarm about a potential nuclear arms race.

Democrats fear Trump will pull US out of last major arms control treaty with Russia
The Washington Examiner6/6/19
The “New START” treaty is due to expire in 2021, unless both sides agree to an automatic extension for five years. In a letter signed by eight House and Senate Democrats, the lawmakers urge Trump to extend the treaty to avoid a new arms race and ensure there are limits to Russia’s nuclear arsenal.

Opinion and Analysis

Trump is provoking a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. What could go wrong?
The Guardian – Simon Tisdall6/6/19
How grimly galling, as Donald Trump ostentatiously marks today’s 75th anniversary of one of the world’s biggest battles, that he is so ready to risk starting another one of potentially greater magnitude. What could possibly be that dangerous, you might ask. Answer: selling American nuclear knowhow to Saudi Arabia without radiation-proof guarantees that it will not be used to make atomic bombs.

The Reaganesque Approach to Iran? Embrace the Moderates
War on the Rocks – Marik Von Rennenkampff6/6/19
The Trump administration’s embrace of the “wrong” historical Reagan, coupled with an incorrect reading of the collapse of the Soviet Union, is yielding results that make diplomatic engagement like Reagan’s with Gorbachev an impossibility with Iran. With near-zero odds of the Iranians sitting down to negotiate, the hawkish elements of the Trump administration have eliminated any chance of catalyzing the types of truly transformational changes that brought down the Soviet Union.

A Mark that Misses the Mark: House Democrats and the National Defense Authorization Act
The Daily Signal – Michaela Dodge6/5/19
The Democrat-controlled House Armed Services subcommittee on strategic forces is advancing policies on nuclear weapons and missile defense that would make the U.S. and its allies less safe. This is evident in the markup (or the subcommittee’s version) of the National Defense Authorization Act, which it released Tuesday.

Special Interest

America Never Had a Chernobyl. But It Came Close.
Popular Mechanics6/5/19
The United States has officially had approximately 32 “Broken Arrow” incidents, often involving the transport of weapons from one location to another. None of these incidents caused a major disaster, let alone a Chernobyl-like event. Two nuclear weapons were dropped on Goldsboro North Carolina in 1961 and are now commemorated with an historical marker. But there’s no such memorial for the 1980 accident in which a Titan II missile carrying a thermonuclear reactor exploded near Damascus, Arkansas.

Will the Real Godzilla Please Stand Up? The ‘King of the Monsters’ has been stripped of its nuclear past.
The Epoch Times6/6/19
What started as an earnest message to the world about the dangers our decisions have brought upon us has devolved into pure entertainment. This is a missed opportunity to force audiences to grapple with the choices that governments have made in their name.

Russia hates HBO’s ‘Chernobyl’ so much that it’s making its own series
HBO’s recently-ended Chernobyl mini-series is easily one of the best shows of the year. The show tells the real story of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster as experienced by the ones who had to deal with the consequences. Unsurprisingly, Putin’s Russia doesn’t like it. Not only that, but a Russian network is making its own Chernobyl, which will be a fictional story based on a conspiracy theory that claims the CIA — who else — sent an agent to the Chernobyl zone to carry out acts of sabotage.

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