Nuclear Policy News – March 26, 2019

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Pentagon Claims Success in Test of New Tactic to Down Incoming Missiles
New York Times

North Korea Can’t Afford Nuclear Weapons and A Working Economy, Nominated Unification Minister Says

New U.S. Sanctions Put Spotlight on Iranian Research Institute
Science Magazine

U.S. Nuclear Policy

Pentagon Claims Success in Test of New Tactic to Down Incoming Missiles
New York Times3/25/2019
The Pentagon said that a test on Monday of a new tactic for intercepting missiles aimed at American cities was a success, in an exercise that appeared intended to simulate how the United States would defend against an adversary like North Korea.

Perry Wants $116M To Restart Yucca Mountain Process
Las Vegas Review Journal3/25/2019
Energy Secretary Rick Perry is expected to tell a House panel that his $31.7 billion budget blueprint includes $116 million to restart licensing hearings on a permanent nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain and to implement interim storage in other states.

Middle East

New U.S. Sanctions Put Spotlight on Iranian Research Institute
Science Magazine3/25/2019
The list of researchers and institutes subject to the new sanctions appears to have been compiled, in part, from a trove of materials—some 55,000 pages of documents and 183 CDs—on Iran’s nuclear efforts up until 2003 that Israel says its spies spirited out of Tehran. The archive, seized during a daring nighttime heist in January 2018, is said to be from the now-defunct program, code-named Amad, to develop nuclear weapons.


Putin’s Nuclear Cruise Missile Isn’t Going So Well After All
Popular Mechanics3/25/2019
We’ve heard plenty of bombastic claims about new Russian weaponry in the past few years. But U.S. intelligence believes that the development of new arms—many of them nuclear-capable—is experiencing decidedly mixed success. According to MSNBC, the Avangard and Kinzhal hypersonic weapons could be operational by 2020, but the Buresvestnik nuclear-powered cruise missile won’t be ready for at least a decade. These weapons were announced in May 2018 as part of a package to modernize Russian tactical and strategic nuclear forces.

Russia’s Nuclear-Armed Underwater Drone May Be Ready for War In Eight Years
An underwater drone armed with a nuclear warhead is slated to join Russia’s arsenal no earlier than 2027, people familiar with a U.S. intelligence assessment told CNBC.

Russia Urges Trump to Grab Chance for New Ties After Mueller
Bloomberg News3/25/2019
Russia urged U.S. President Donald Trump to seize the opportunity to reset relations after Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report found no evidence of collusion between his campaign and the Kremlin. “There’s a chance to renew much in our relations, but the question is whether Trump will take the risk,” Konstantin Kosachyov, chairman of the international relations committee in the upper house of parliament, wrote Monday on Facebook. “We, of course, are ready. And I suggest starting with the most acute issues: the START and INF agreements” limiting nuclear weapons, he said.


North Korea Can’t Afford Nuclear Weapons and A Working Economy, Nominated Unification Minister Says
The man nominated to lead South Korea’s Unification Ministry has suggested that North Korea will need to give up its nuclear program if it ever wants a prosperous economy. Kim Yeon-chul, who heads a think tank linked to the ministry, told a confirmation hearing Tuesday that Pyongyang cannot realistically build a secure economic footing while retaining nuclear weapons, Reuters reported.

South Korea’s Unification Minister Nominee Says North Korea Can’t Have Nukes, Prosperity
South Korea’s nominee for unification minister said on Tuesday that North Korea cannot expect to achieve a prosperous economy and keep its weapons programs, as nuclear talks have stalled since the collapse of a U.S.-North Korea summit last month.

Swedes Keep Room Ready for US Diplomats in Pyongyang
Swedish diplomats are keeping a room ready for the U.S. to use if it ever decides to have an official presence in the North Korean capital. The unmarked, slightly musty room next to the Swedish ambassador’s office in Pyongyang’s diplomatic quarter has been kept in an odd state of limbo for years.


The North Korea Fiasco
Washington Post- Jennifer Rubin3/25/2019
President Trump’s inexplicable moves in contravention of advice and of the United States’ national security interests usually involve Russia. Last week, however, North Korea was the hostile country on the receiving end of a gift from Trump, one that undermined his supposed policy of pressuring North Korea to denuclearize.

Special Interest

What a Secret: The U.S. Used Super Fast Mach 3 Drones to Spy on China’s Nuclear Weapons
National Interest – David Axe3/25/2019
Between 1969 and 1971, the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office deployed super-fast spy drones over China in an abortive attempt to spy on Beijing’s nuclear program. The NRO on March 21, 2019 declassified scores of five-decade-old records documenting the development, deployment and termination of the “Tagboard” drone system.

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