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CRS — Iran-North Korea-Syria Ballistic Missile and Nuclear Cooperation

May 1, 2014 Comments off

Iran-North Korea-Syria Ballistic Missile and Nuclear Cooperation (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

Congress has at times expressed concern regarding ballistic missile and nuclear programs in Iran, North Korea, and Syria. This report focuses primarily on unclassified and declassified U.S. Intelligence Community (IC) assessments over the past two decades. These assessments indicate that

• there is no evidence that Iran and North Korea have engaged in nuclear-related trade or cooperation with each other, although ballistic missile technology cooperation between the two is significant and meaningful, and

• Syria has received ballistic missiles and related technology from North Korea and Iran and also engaged in nuclear technology cooperation with North Korea.

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CRS — Foreign Assistance to North Korea

April 8, 2014 Comments off

Foreign Assistance to North Korea (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

Between 1995 and 2008, the United States provided North Korea with over $1.3 billion in assistance: slightly more than 50% for food aid and about 40% for energy assistance. Since early 2009, the United States has provided virtually no aid to North Korea, though episodically there have been discussions about resuming large-scale food aid. Additionally, the Obama Administration officials have said that they would be willing to consider other types of aid if North Korea takes steps indicating that it will dismantle its nuclear program, a prospect that most analysts view as increasingly remote. As of March 2014, barring an unexpected breakthrough, there appears little likelihood the Obama Administration will provide large-scale assistance of any type to North Korea in the near future. Members of Congress have a number of tools they could use to influence the development and implementation of aid programs with North Korea.

Just Released by DoD — 2014 Military and Security Development Involving the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea

March 6, 2014 Comments off

2014 Military and Security Development Involving the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (PDF)
Source: U.S. Department of Defense

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) remains one of the United States’ most critical security challenges for many reasons. These include North Korea’s willingness to undertake provocative and destabilizing behavior, including attacks on the Republic of Korea (ROK), its pursuit of nuclear weapons and long-range ballistic missiles, and its willingness to proliferate weapons in contravention of United Nations Security Council Resolutions.

Under Kim Jong Il, DPRK strategy focused on internal security; coercive diplomacy to compel acceptance of its diplomatic, economic, and security interests; development of strategic military capabilities to deter external attack; and challenging the ROK and the U.S.-ROK Alliance. We anticipate these strategic goals will be consistent under North Korea’s current leader, Kim Jong Un.

North Korea fields a large, forward-deployed military that retains the capability to inflict serious damage on the ROK, despite significant resource shortfalls and aging hardware. The DPRK continues to be deterred from conducting large-scale attacks on the ROK primarily due to the strength of the U.S.-ROK Alliance. On a smaller scale, however, the DPRK has demonstrated its willingness to use military provocation to achieve national goals. In 2010, it sank the ROK naval vessel CHEONAN, killing 46 ROK Navy sailors, and shelled Yeonpyeong Island, killing two ROK Marines and two civilians.

North Korea’s continued pursuit of nuclear technology and capabilities and development of intermediate- and long-range ballistic missile programs, as reflected in the December 2012 Taepo Dong-2 missile launch and February 2013 nuclear test, underscore the threat to regional stability and U.S. national security posed by North Korea. These programs, and North Korea’s expressed hostility toward the ROK and proliferation of items prohibited under United Nations Security Council Resolutions 1718, 1874, 2087,and 2094, make the DPRK a continued security challenge for the United States and its Allies and partners.

North Korea’s third nuclear test in February 2013 and subsequent announcement of plans to restart and refurbish nuclear facilities at Yongbyon highlight the continued challenge posed by its nuclear programs. The September 19, 2005 Joint Statement of the Six-Party Talks, and United Nations Security Council Resolutions 1718, 1874, 2087, and 2094 call for the complete and verifiable denuclearization of North Korea. Given North Korea’s unwillingness to abide by these commitments, the U.S. Department of Defense will continue to manage the North Korean security challenge through close coordination and consultation with the international community, particularly with our ROK and Japanese Allies.

The United States remains vigilant in the face of North Korea’s continued provocations and steadfast in its commitments to Allies in the region, including the security provided by extended deterrence commitments through the nuclear umbrella and conventional forces.

Report of the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea

February 19, 2014 Comments off

Report of the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea
Source: United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
From press release:

A wide array of crimes against humanity, arising from “policies established at the highest level of State,” have been committed and continue to take place in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, according to a UN report released Monday, which also calls for urgent action by the international community to address the human rights situation in the country, including referral to the International Criminal Court.

In a 400-page set of linked reports and supporting documents, based on first-hand testimony from victims and witnesses, the UN Commission of Inquiry on human rights in the DPRK has documented in great detail the “unspeakable atrocities” committed in the country.

“The gravity, scale and nature of these violations reveal a State that does not have any parallel in the contemporary world,” the Commission — established by the Human Rights Council in March 2013 — says in a report that is unprecedented in scope.

“These crimes against humanity entail extermination, murder, enslavement, torture, imprisonment, rape, forced abortions and other sexual violence, persecution on political, religious, racial and gender grounds, the forcible transfer of populations, the enforced disappearance of persons and the inhumane act of knowingly causing prolonged starvation,” the report says, adding that “Crimes against humanity are ongoing in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea because the policies, institutions and patterns of impunity that lie at their heart remain in place.”

The second more detailed section of the report cites evidence provided by individual victims and witnesses, including the harrowing treatment meted out to political prisoners, some of whom said they would catch snakes and mice to feed malnourished babies. Others told of watching family members being murdered in prison camps, and of defenceless inmates being used for martial arts practice.

CRS — North Korea: U.S. Relations, Nuclear Diplomacy, and Internal Situation

January 31, 2014 Comments off

North Korea: U.S. Relations, Nuclear Diplomacy, and Internal Situation (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

North Korea has been among the most vexing and persistent problems in U.S. foreign policy in the post-Cold War period. The United States has never had formal diplomatic relations with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (the official name for North Korea). Negotiations over North Korea’s nuclear weapons program have occupied the past three U.S. administrations, even as some analysts anticipated a collapse of the isolated authoritarian regime. North Korea has been the recipient of well over $1 billion in U.S. aid and the target of dozens of U.S. sanctions.

This report provides background information on the negotiations over North Korea’s nuclear weapons program that began in the early 1990s under the Clinton Administration. As U.S. policy toward Pyongyang evolved through the George W. Bush and Obama presidencies, the negotiations moved from mostly bilateral to the multilateral Six-Party Talks (made up of China, Japan, Russia, North Korea, South Korea, and the United States). Although the negotiations have reached some key agreements that lay out deals for aid and recognition to North Korea in exchange for denuclearization, major problems with implementation have persisted. With Six- Party Talks suspended since 2009, concern about proliferation to other actors has grown.

Preparing for the Possibility of a North Korean Collapse

September 24, 2013 Comments off

Preparing for the Possibility of a North Korean Collapse
Source: RAND Corporation

A North Korean government collapse would have serious consequences in North Korea and beyond. At the very least, a collapse would reduce the already scarce food and essential goods available to the population, in part due to hoarding and increasing costs. This could lead to a humanitarian disaster. Factions emerging after a collapse could plunge the country into civil war that spills over into neighboring countries. Weapons of mass destruction (WMD) could be used and even proliferated. This report examines ways of controlling and mitigating the consequences, recognizing that the Republic of Korea (ROK) and its U.S. ally will almost certainly need to intervene militarily in the North, likely seeking Korean unification as the ultimate outcome. But such an intervention requires serious preparation. North Koreans must be convinced that they will be treated well and could actually have better lives after unification. The allies need to prepare to deliver humanitarian aid in the North, stop conflict, demilitarize the North Korean military and security services over time, and secure and eventually eliminate North Korean WMD. Potential Chinese intervention must be addressed, ideally leading to cooperation with ROK and U.S. forces. Plans are needed for liberating North Korean political prisons before the guards execute the prisoners. Property rights need to be addressed. The ROK must sustain its military capabilities despite major reductions in force size due to very low birthrates. And ROK reluctance to broadly address North Korean collapse must be overcome so that plans in these areas can move forward.

CRS — Guam: U.S. Defense Deployments

September 23, 2013 Comments off

Guam: U.S. Defense Deployments (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

Since 2000, the U.S. military has been building up forward-deployed forces on the westernmost U.S. territory of Guam to increase U.S. operational presence, deterrence, and power projection for potential responses to crises and disasters, counterterrorism, and contingencies in support of South Korea, Japan, the Philippines, Taiwan, or elsewhere in Asia. Since 2006, joint exercises based at Guam called “Valiant Shield” have boosted U.S. military readiness in the Pacific. The defense buildup on Guam has been moderate. China has concerns about Guam’s buildup, suspecting it to be directed against China. There has been concern that China and North Korea could target Guam with missiles. The People ’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy has increased activities in waters around Guam. Still, Guam’s role increased in engaging with the PLA. In 2006, the United States and Japan agreed on a Realignment Roadmap to strengthen their alliance, including a buildup on Guam to cost $10.3 billion, with Japan contributing 60%. Goals were to start the related construction on Guam by 2010 and to complete relocation of about 8,000 marines from Okinawa to Guam by 2014. In Tokyo on February 17, 2009, the Secretary of State signed the bilateral “Agreement Between the Government of the United States of America and the Government of Japan Concerning the Implementation of the Relocation of the III Marine Expeditionary Force Personnel and Their Dependents From Okinawa to Guam” that reaffirmed the “Roadmap” of May 1, 2006.

However, completion of the marines’ relocation by 2014 would be unlikely, and the original realignment actually would have involved more than moving 8,000 marines to Guam. Japan’s dispute over the location on Okinawa of the Futenma Replacement Facility (FRF) to replace the Marine Corps Air Station Futenma raised implications for the relocation of marines from Okinawa to Guam. Nonetheless, despite the dis pute over the FRF, Japan has budgeted for its contributions to the marines’ relocation to Guam.

By 2011, some Members urged attention to concerns that included Japan’s impasse, expanded costs, and the delay in the realignment even as the U.S. military presence and readiness remain critical. On May 11, 2011, Senators Carl Levin, John McCain, and Jim Webb called for a review of plans to restructure military forces in South Korea, Japan, and Guam. President Obama issued in January 2012 the defense guidance for the strategy of “rebalancing” diplomatic, defense, and economic priorities more to the Asia-Pacific region. Finally, on February 8, the United States and Japan agreed to “adjust” the Roadmap and separate the move of marines from the plan for the FRF, in order to make progress separately. A U.S.-Japan Joint Statement of April 2012 specified that out of about 9,000 marines to be relocated from Okinawa, about 5,000 marines would move to Guam. Out of the new estimated cost of $ 8.6 billion, Japan would contribute $3.1 billion. In March 2013, the Commander of the Pacific Command (PACOM) testified to Congress that he estimated the completion of movement of marines to Guam by 2020.

Facing North Korea’s announced missile threats against Guam in March 2013, the Defense Department announced on April 3 that it would de ploy to Guam within weeks a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) ballistic missile defense system as a precautionary measure to improve defenses against North Korea’s missile threat.

Legislation includes the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for FY2014, H.R. 1960 and S. 1197. For further discussion, see the section on legislation. Updated as warranted, this CRS Report discusses major developments and policy issues related to the defense buildup.

CRS — North Korea: U.S. Relations, Nuclear Diplomacy, and Internal Situation (9/13/13)

September 23, 2013 Comments off

North Korea: U.S. Relations, Nuclear Diplomacy, and Internal Situation (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

North Korea has been among the most vexing and persistent problems in U.S. foreign policy in the post-Cold War period. The United States has never had formal diplomatic relations with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (the official name for North Korea). Negotiations over North Korea’s nuclear weapons program have occupied the past three U.S. administrations, even as some analysts anticipated a collapse of the isolated authoritarian regime. North Korea has been the recipient of well over $1 billion in U.S. aid and the target of dozens of U.S. sanctions.

This report provides background information on the negotiations over North Korea’s nuclear weapons program that began in the early 1990s under the Clinton Administration. As U.S. policy toward Pyongyang evolved through the George W. Bush and Obama presidencies, the negotiations moved from mostly bilateral to the multilateral Six-Party Talks (made up of China, Japan, Russia, North Korea, South Korea, and the United States). Although the negotiations have reached some key agreements that lay out deal s for aid and recognition to North Korea in exchange for denuclearization, major problems with implementation have persisted. With Six- Party Talks suspended since 2009, concern about proliferation to other actors has grown.

After Kim Jong-il’s death in December 2011, his youngest son, Kim Jong-un, has consolidated his authority as supreme leader. Bilateral agreements with the United States in February 2012 involving the provision of aid and freezing some nuclear activities fell apart after Pyongyang launched a rocket in April 2012. Prospects for further negotiations dimmed further after another, more successful, launch in December 2012 and a third nuclear test in February 2013. In response to new U.N. sanctions, Pyongyang sharply escalated its rhetoric and took a number of provocative steps. The U.S. reaction included muscular displays of its military commitments to defend South Korea and moves to bolster its missile defense capabilities.

North Korea’s actions present renewed questions for the Obama Administration. Does the nuclear test, along with a successful missile launch last year, fundamentally change the strategic calculus? Has North Korea’s capacity to hurt U.S. interests, up to and including a strike on the United States itself, increased to the point that military options will be considered more carefully? Is returning to the Six-Party Talks, dormant since 2008, still a goal? Relatedly, does the United States need a strategy that relies less on Beijing’s willingness to punish Pyongyang? Do North Korea’s nuclear advances mean that the policy of “strategic patience” is too risky to continue? More broadly, to what degree should the United States attempt to isolate the regime diplomatically and financially? Should those efforts be balanced with engagement initiatives that continue to push for steps toward denuclearization? Have the North’s nuclear and missile tests and attacks on South Korea demonstrated that regime change is the only way to peaceful resolution?

Although the primary focus of U.S. policy toward North Korea is the nuclear weapons program, there are a host of other issues, including Pyongyang’s missile programs, illicit activities, violent provocations inflicted upon South Korea, and abysmal human rights record. Modest attempts at engaging North Korea remain suspended along with the nuclear negotiations.

This report will be updated periodically. (This report covers the overall U.S.-North Korea relationship, with an emphasis on nuclear diplomacy. For information on the technical issues involved in North Korea’s weapons programs and delivery systems, as well as the steps involved in denuclearization, please see the companion piece to this report, CRS Report RL34256, North Korea’s Nuclear Weapons: Technical Issues , by Mary Beth D. Nikitin. Please refer to the list at the end of this report for CRS reports focusing on other North Korean issues.)

CRS — Ballistic Missile Defense in the Asia-Pacific Region: Cooperation and Opposition

July 15, 2013 Comments off

Ballistic Missile Defense in the Asia-Pacific Region: Cooperation and Opposition (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via U.S. State Department Foreign Press Center)

The growing number and modernization of ballistic missiles in the Asia-Pacific region poses a security challenge for the United States and its allies and is thus a concern for many in Congress. The United States has made ballistic missile defense (BMD) a central component of protection for forward-deployed U.S. forces and extended deterrence for allied security. The configuration of sensors, command-and-control centers, and BMD assets in the region has slowly evolved with contributions from treaty allies, primarily Japan, Australia, and South Korea.

Observers believe that North Korea has an arsenal of hundreds of short-range ballistic missiles and likely dozens of medium-range Nodong missiles; the extended-range Nodongs are considered capable of reaching Japan and U.S. bases there. Longer-range North Korean missiles appear to remain unreliable, with only one successful test out of five in the past 15 years. The U.S. intelligence community has not reached consensus that North Korea can build nuclear warheads small enough to put on ballistic missiles, and there is debate among experts on this question.

Congress has maintained a strong interest in the ballistic missile threat from both North Korea and Iran and in BMD systems to counter those threats. The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for FY2013 (P.L. 112-239) notes that East Asian allies have contributed to BMD in various ways, and it calls on the Department of Defense to continue efforts to develop and formalize regional BMD arrangements.

The United States and its allies in the Asia-Pacific region have responded to the North Korean missile threat by deploying BMD assets and increasing international BMD cooperation. The United States and Japan have deployed Aegis-e quipped destroyers with Standard Missile 3 (SM- 3) interceptors, Patriot Advanced Capability 3 (PAC-3) batteries, early warning sensors, and advanced radars to meet the threat. South Korea and Australia have relatively basic BMD capabilities with plans to improve those in th e near future. Cooperation on BMD follows the hub- and-spokes model of U.S. bilateral alliance relationships in the region; the multilateralism that underpins the European BMD arrangement is largely absent. Working-level coordination is especially close among the United States, Japan, and Australia, but senior U.S. defense officials have called for greater integration of U.S. and allied BMD efforts in East Asia to improve effectiveness.

The stated focus of U.S. BMD policy is to defend against limited missile strikes from rogue states, not to alter the balance of strategic nuclear deterrence with the major nuclear-armed states. Nonetheless, Russia and China have strongly cr iticized U.S. BMD deployments as a threat to their nuclear deterrents, and thus a danger to strategic stability. Chinese officials and scholars make several other criticisms: that BMD is antagonizing North Korea and thus undermining regional stability; that the United States is using BMD to strengthen its alliance relationships, which could be turned against China; and that BMD is undermining China’s conventional missile deterrent against Taiwan, and thus emboldening those on Taiwan who want to formalize the island’s separation from China.

CRS — Foreign Assistance to North Korea

June 18, 2013 Comments off

Foreign Assistance to North Korea (PDF)

Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

Between 1995 and 2008, the United States provided North Korea with over $1.3 billion in assistance: slightly more than 50% for food aid and about 40% for energy assistance. Since early 2009, the United States has provided virtually no aid to North Korea, though episodically there have been discussions about resuming large-scale food aid. Additionally, the Obama Administration officials have said that they would be willing to consider other types of aid if North Korea takes steps indicating that it will dismantle its nuclear program. However, barring an unexpected breakthrough, there appears little likelihood the Obama Administration will provide large-scale assistance of any type to North Korea in the near future. In February 2013, North Korea announced it had conducted its third test of a nuclear device, a move that came weeks after its apparently successful launch of a long-range missile. Members of Congress have a number of tools they could use to influence the development and implementation of aid programs with North Korea.

Food Aid. North Korea has suffered from chronic, massive food shortages since the mid-1990s. Food aid—largely from China, South Korea, and the United States—has been essential in filling the gap. As of mid-2013, according to many observers, it appears that while North Korea’s continued food shortages are not severe enough to create a crisis situation, they are causing chronic malnutrition and stunting in vulnerable populations in certain regions. Many analysts think the Obama Administration will be reluctant to provide large-scale aid after the breakdown of a February 2012 deal, in which the United States announced it would provide North Korea with large-scale food aid in return for concessions by Pyongyang on its nuclear and missile programs. The deal unraveled in April 2012 after North Korea launched a long-range rocket in defiance of United Nations sanctions. Since then, the United States and North Korea have not reached any agreements, including on food aid. In June 2012, the Senate voted to prohibit food aid to North Korea.

Providing food to North Korea poses a number of dilemmas. Pyongyang has resisted reforms that would allow the equitable distribution of food and help pay for food imports. The North Korean government restricts the ability of donors to operate in the country. Additionally, multiple sources have asserted that some of the food assistance is routinely diverted for resale in private markets or other uses. However, it is likely that food aid has helped feed millions of North Koreans, at times possibly staving off a repeat of the famine conditions that existed in North Korea in the mid-late 1990s, when 5%-10% of the population died. South Korean President Park Geun-hye’s government has indicated that they would be willing to offer North Korea food aid as part of her plan to foster a “new era” in inter-Korean relations.

Energy Assistance. Between 1995 and 2009, the United States provided around $600 million in energy assistance to North Korea. The aid was given over two time periods—1995-2003 and 2007-2009—in exchange for North Korea freezing its plutonium-based nuclear facilities. In 2008 and 2009, North Korea also took steps to disable these facilities. However, no additional energy assistance has been provided since 2009, when Pyongyang withdrew from the Six-Party Talks— involving North Korea, the United States, China, Japan, and Russia—over North Korea’s nuclear program. The move followed condemnation and sanctions by the U.N. Security Council for North Korea’s April 2009 launch of a suspected long-range missile and May 2009 test of a nuclear device.

In 2007 and 2008, the United States also provided technical assistance to help in North Korea’s nuclear disablement process. In 2008, Congress took steps to legally enable the President to give expanded assistance for this purpose. However, following North Korea’s actions in the spring of 2009, Congress rejected the Obama Administration’s requests for funds to supplement existing resources in the event of a breakthrough. Congress did approve monies for the State Department’s general emergency nonproliferation fund that the Administration could use in North Korea.

Report on North Korea’s Military and Security Developments

May 7, 2013 Comments off

Report on North Korea’s Military and Security Developments (PDF)
Source: U.S. Department of Defense

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) remains one of the United States’ most critical security challenges in Northeast Asia. North Korea remains a security threat because of its willingness to undertake provocative and destabilizing behavior, including attacks on the Republic of Korea (ROK), its pursuit of nuclear weapons and long-range ballistic missiles, and its willingness to proliferate weapons in contravention of its international agreements and United Nations Security Council Resolutions.

CRS — North Korea’s Nuclear Weapons: Technical Issues

May 1, 2013 Comments off

North Korea’s Nuclear Weapons: Technical Issues (PDF)

Source: Congressional Research Service (via U.S. Department of State Foreign Press Center)

This report summarizes what is known from open sources about the North Korean nuclear weapons program—including weapons-usable fissile material and warhead estimates—and assesses current developments in achieving denuclearization. Little detailed open-source information is available about the DPRK’s nuclear weapons production capabilities, warhead sophistication, the scope and success of its uranium enrichment program, or extent of its proliferation activities. In total, it is estimated that North Korea has between 30 and 50 kilograms of separated plutonium, enough for at least half a dozen nuclear weapons. North Korea’s plutonium production reactor at Yongbyon has been shuttered since its cooling tower was destroyed under international agreement in June 2008. However, on April 1, 2013, North Korea said it would resume operation of its plutonium production reactor. Experts estimate it will take approximately six months to restart. This would provide North Korea with approximately one bomb’s worth of plutonium per year.

While North Korea’s weapons program has been plutonium-based from the start, in the past decade, intelligence emerged pointing to a second route to a bomb using highly enriched uranium. North Korea openly acknowledged a uranium enrichment program in 2009, but has said its purpose is the production of fuel for nuclear power. In November 2010, North Korea showed visiting American experts early construction of a 100 MWT light-water reactor and a newly built gas centrifuge uranium enrichment plant, both at the Yongbyon site. The North Koreans claimed the enrichment plant was operational, but this has not been independently confirmed. U.S. officials have said that it is likely other, clandestine enrichment facilities exist. Enrichment (as well as reprocessing) technology can be used to produce material for nuclear weapons or fuel for power reactors. An enrichment capability could potentially provide North Korea with a faster way of making nuclear material for weapons and therefore is of great concern to policymakers.

North Korea has made multiple policy statements in the past year asserting its nuclear weapons status: in May 2012, North Korea changed its constitution to say that it was a “nuclear-armed state.” In January 2013, North Korea said that no dialogue on denuclearization “would be possible” and it would only disarm when all the other nuclear weapon states also disarm. In March 2013, North Korea stated its goal of expanding its nuclear weapons program.

Many experts believe that the prime objective of North Korea’s nuclear program is to develop a nuclear warhead that could be mounted on North Korea’s intermediate-range and long-range missiles. This was confirmed by North Korean official statements in late March 2013.

Miniaturization of a nuclear warhead would likely require additional nuclear and missile tests. In January 2013, a North Korean statement said that it would respond with a nuclear test “of higher level.” On February 12, 2013, the North Korean official news agency announced a “successful” underground nuclear detonation, and seismic monitoring systems measured a resulting earthquake that was 5.1 in magnitude. This is magnitude is slightly higher than past tests, but yield estimates are still uncertain. The South Korean Ministry of Defense estimated that the test yield was between 6 and 7 kilotons, while the U.S. Director of National Intelligence so far has said “approximately several kilotons.” North Korea claimed that the February 12, 2013, nuclear test was to develop a “smaller and light” warhead. At a minimum, the test would likely contribute to North Korea’s ability to develop a warhead that could be mounted on a long-range missile. To date, no open source date on test emissions is available that might show whether the North Koreans tested a uranium or plutonium device. This information could help determine the type and sophistication of the North Korean nuclear warhead design, about which little is known.

When Armies Divide: The Security of Nuclear Arsenals During Revolts, Coups, and Civil Wars

April 17, 2013 Comments off

When Armies Divide: The Security of Nuclear Arsenals During Revolts, Coups, and Civil Wars

Source: RAND Corporation

This work examines what happened in April of 1961, when the French government was about to conduct the fourth of a series of nuclear tests in the Sahara. Four French Army generals, unhappy that de Gaulle was willing to support Algerian independence, staged a coup to keep Algeria as a French colony. The nuclear test was conducted a few days ahead of schedule — it was not successful — and speculation ever since has been that the test was moved up to keep the weapon out of the rebel generals’ hands.

While there is evidence that one of the generals contacted the officer who was in charge of the tests to try to delay them, Jenkins concludes that the generals really never had a plan in place to seize the weapon and that the French government didn’t want to delay the test. At the time it happened, the world viewed it as an internal, French problem.

The second, shorter part of the book compares the 1961 events to what might happen today if the military in Pakistan or North Korea splintered, and a rebel group got their hands on those countries’ nuclear materials. Jenkins contends that such a scenario today would clearly be an international incident, that neither Pakistan nor North Korea would want any foreign intervention, and that the United States "might not be the only first responder."

Two additional short essays by Dr. Stephen J. Lukasik and Constantin Melnik, a security assistant to the French prime minister in 1961, also review what happened in 1961.

CRS — North Korea’s Nuclear Weapons: Technical Issues

February 18, 2013 Comments off

North Korea’s Nuclear Weapons: Technical Issues (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

This report summarizes what is known from open sources about the North Korean nuclear weapons program—including weapons-usable fissile material and warhead estimates—and assesses current developments in achieving denuclearization. Little detailed open-source information is available about the DPRK’s nuclear weapons production capabilities, warhead sophistication, the scope and success of its uranium enrichment program, or extent of its proliferation activities. In total, it is estimated that North Korea has between 30 and 50 kilograms of separated plutonium, enough for at least half a dozen nuclear weapons. While North Korea’s weapons program has been plutonium-based from the start, in the past decade, intelligence emerged pointing to a second route to a bomb using highly enriched uranium. North Korea openly acknowledged a uranium enrichment program in 2009, but has said its purpose is the production of fuel for nuclear power. In November 2010, North Korea showed visiting American experts early construction of a 100 MWT light-water reactor and a newly built gas centrifuge uranium enrichment plant, both at the Yongbyon site. The North Koreans claimed the enrichment plant was operational, but this has not been independently confirmed. U.S. officials have said that it is likely other, clandestine enrichment facilities exist. A February 2012 announcement committed North Korea to moratoria on nuclear and long-range missile testing as well as uranium enrichment suspension at Yongbyon under IAEA monitoring. However, an April 2012 satellite launch, which violated UN Security Council resolutions, caused a collapse of the February agreement. A December 2012 satellite launch was met with UN Security Council condemnation. North Korea has also made policy statements asserting its nuclear weapons status: in May 2012, North Korea changed its constitution to say that it was a “nuclear-armed state.” In January 2013, North Korea said that no dialogue on denuclearization “would be possible” and it would only disarm when all the other nuclear weapon states also disarm.

Many experts believe that the prime objective of North Korea’s nuclear program is to develop a nuclear warhead that could be mounted on North Korea’s intermediate-range and long-range missiles. Miniaturization of a nuclear warhead would likely require additional nuclear and missile tests. In January 2013, a North Korean statement said that it would respond with a nuclear test “of higher level.” On February 12, 2013, the North Korean official news agency announced a “successful” underground nuclear detonation, and seismic monitoring systems measured a resulting earthquake that was 5.1 in magnitude. This is magnitude is slightly higher than past tests, but yield estimates are still uncertain. The South Korean Ministry of Defense estimated that the test yield was between 6 and 7 kilotons, while the U.S. Director of National Intelligence so far has said “approximately several kilotons.” North Korea claimed that the February 12, 2013, nuclear test was to develop a “smaller and light” warhead. At a minimum, the test would likely contribute to North Korea’s ability to develop a warhead that could be mounted on a long-range missile. It is unclear what impact a third nuclear test would have on future negotiations, but it would make their success far less likely. Observers are also waiting for evidence from test emissions that might show whether the North Koreans tested a uranium or plutonium device. This information could help determine the type and sophistication of the North Korean nuclear warhead design, about which little is known.

CRS — Foreign Assistance to North Korea

May 8, 2012 Comments off

Foreign Assistance to North Korea (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

Should the United States resume food, energy, and/or denuclearization assistance to North Korea? This is the major issue facing Congress in considering the provision of aid to Pyongyang. Between 1995 and 2008, the United States provided North Korea with over $1.3 billion in assistance: just over 50% for food aid and about 40% for energy assistance. Since early 2009, the United States has provided virtually no aid to North Korea. On February 29, 2012, after bilateral talks with the United States, North Korea announced a moratorium on long-range missile launches, nuclear tests, and nuclear activities (including uranium enrichment) at its Yongbyon nuclear facilities. It also said it would allow international nuclear inspectors to return to North Korea. The United States announced it would provide North Korea with 240,000 metric tons (MT) of food aid. However, the so-called “Leap Day deal” unraveled after North Korea on April 13, 2012, launched, in defiance of United Nations resolutions, a rocket to place an “earth observation satellite” into orbit. U.S. officials say that during bilateral negotiations they warned their counterparts that any rocket launch using ballistic missile technology would jeopardize the agreement.

Food Aid. North Korea has suffered from chronic, massive food shortages since the mid-1990s. Food aid–largely from China, South Korea, and the United States–has been essential in filling the gap. In 2011, in response to continued food shortages, Pyongyang reportedly asked the United States, South Korea, and other countries to provide large-scale food aid. The United Nations has issued an appeal for assistance. In 2008 and 2009, the United States shipped about a third of a planned 500,000 MT food aid pledge before disagreements with the North Korean government led to the program’s cessation.

Providing food to North Korea would pose a number of dilemmas for the United States. Pyongyang has resisted reforms that would allow the equitable distribution of food and help pay for food imports. Additionally, the North Korean government restricts the ability of donors to operate in the country. Multiple sources have asserted that some of the food assistance going to North Korea is routinely diverted for resale in private markets or other uses. However, it is likely that food aid has helped feed millions of North Koreans, possibly staving off a repeat of the famine conditions that existed in North Korea in the mid-late 1990s, when 5%-10% of the population died due to particularly severe food shortages.

In deciding how to respond to North Korea’s current request, the Obama Administration and Congress face a number of decisions, including whether to resume food aid; if so, whether to condition food aid on progress in security and/or human rights matters; whether to link assistance to Pyongyang easing its restrictions on monitoring; and whether to pressure China to monitor its own food aid. In 2011, many Members of Congress tried to prohibit food aid to North Korea.

Energy Assistance. Between 1995 and 2009, the United States provided around $600 million in energy assistance to North Korea. The aid was given over two time periods–1995-2003 and 2007-2009–in exchange for North Korea freezing its plutonium-based nuclear facilities. In 2008 and 2009, North Korea also took steps to disable these facilities. However, no additional energy assistance has been provided since 2009, when Pyongyang withdrew from the Six-Party Talks– involving North Korea, the United States, China, Japan, and Russia–over North Korea’s nuclear program. The move followed condemnation and sanctions by the U.N. Security Council for North Korea’s April 2009 launch of a suspected long-range missile and May 2009 test of a nuclear device.

In 2007 and 2008, the United States also provided technical assistance to help in North Korea’s nuclear disablement process. In 2008, Congress took steps to legally enable the President to give expanded assistance for this purpose. However, following North Korea’s actions in the spring of 2009, Congress rejected the Obama Administration’s requests for funds to supplement existing resources in the event of a breakthrough. Congress did approve monies for the State Department’s general emergency nonproliferation fund that the Administration could use in North Korea. The Obama Administration, along with the South Korean government, has said that it would be willing to provide large-scale development aid if North Korea takes steps to irreversibly dismantle its nuclear program.

This report will be updated periodically to track changes in U.S. provision of aid to North Korea.

CRS — Foreign Assistance to North Korea

April 3, 2012 Comments off

Foreign Assistance to North Korea (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

Should the United States resume food, energy, and/or denuclearization assistance to North Korea? This is the major issue facing Congress in considering the provision of aid to Pyongyang. Between 1995 and 2008, the United States provided North Korea with over $1.3 billion in assistance: just over 50% for food aid and about 40% for energy assistance. Since early 2009, the United States has provided virtually no aid to North Korea. In late February 2012, after bilateral talks with the United States, North Korea announced a moratorium on long-range missile launches, nuclear tests, and nuclear activities (including uranium enrichment) at its Yongbyon nuclear facilities. It also said it would allow international nuclear inspectors to return to North Korea. The United States announced it would provide North Korea with 240,000 metric tons (MT) of food aid. However, two and a half week later, the agreement appeared in jeopardy after North Korea announced that in April it would launch a satellite, a move that would defy a number United Nations resolutions targeting North Korea. U.S. officials said that a satellite launch would “abrogate” the February agreement.

CRS — North Korea’s Nuclear Weapons: Technical Issues

March 27, 2012 Comments off

North Korea’s Nuclear Weapons: Technical Issues (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

This report summarizes what is known from open sources about the North Korean nuclear weapons program—including weapons-usable fissile material and warhead estimates—and assesses current developments in achieving denuclearization. Little detailed open-source information is available about the DPRK’s nuclear weapons production capabilities, warhead sophistication, the scope and success of its uranium enrichment program, or extent of its proliferation activities. In total, it is estimated that North Korea has between 30 and 50 kilograms of separated plutonium, enough for at least half a dozen nuclear weapons. While North Korea’s weapons program has been plutonium-based from the start, in the past decade, intelligence emerged pointing to a second route to a bomb using highly enriched uranium. North Korea openly acknowledged a uranium enrichment program in 2009, but has said its purpose is the production of fuel for nuclear power. In November 2010, North Korea showed visiting American experts early construction of a 100 MWT light-water reactor and a newly built gas centrifuge uranium enrichment plant, both at the Yongbyon site. The North Koreans claimed the enrichment plant was operational, but this has not been independently confirmed. U.S. officials have said that it is likely other, clandestine enrichment facilities exist. A February 2012 announcement commits North Korea to moratoria on nuclear and long-range missile testing as well as uranium enrichment suspension at Yongbyon under IAEA monitoring.

CRS — Kim Jong-il’s Death: Implications for North Korea’s Stability and U.S. Policy

January 31, 2012 Comments off

Kim Jong-il’s Death: Implications for North Korea’s Stability and U.S. Policy (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

North Korea represents one of the United States’ biggest foreign policy challenges due to its production and proliferation of nuclear weapons and missiles, the threat of attacks against South Korea, its record of human rights abuses, and the possibility that its internal problems could destabilize Northeast Asia. The North Korean government’s December 19, 2011, announcement of the death of the country’s “Dear Leader,” Kim Jong-il, has the potential to be a watershed moment in the history of the Korean Peninsula and the region. Ever since the death of his father, the “Great Leader” Kim Il Sung, in 1994, Kim Jong-il had sat at the apex of a highly centralized, brutal regime. During his tenure, his regime subjected North Korea’s people to profound impoverishment and massive food shortages, developed nuclear weapons and long-range missiles, and sold technology related to both programs abroad.

The effect of Kim Jong-il’s death on North Korea’s stability is uncertain. Many experts doubt that his anointed successor, his third son Kim Jong-un, will over the course of time be able to maintain effective control over his country due to his relative inexperience and the mounting internal and external pressures confronting North Korea. Yet, the North Korean regime under the elder Kim proved to be remarkably resilient, and many of the forces that held it together will continue to operate even if the young Kim himself remains weak. A key to the Kim Jong-un regime’s stability will be its ability to continue obtaining and distributing funds, mostly from external sources. Of particular importance will be China’s willingness to provide commercial, financial, and other support for the regime. Over the years, China reportedly has resisted repeated U.S. and South Korean attempts to discuss North Korea contingency plans. It is unclear whether Kim Jong-il’s death will change this situation, though there have been calls to redouble outreach to Beijing. A possible opportunity for high-level dialogue could come in January 2012, when Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping visits Washington, DC. Xi is widely expected to be chosen as China’s top leader over the coming year.

Very little is known about the inner workings of the North Korean elite, as evidenced by the U.S. and South Korean intelligence services apparent surprise at the announcement of Kim Jong-il’s death. Even less is known about Kim Jong-un, who is believed to be in his late 20s and to have attended primary school in Switzerland in the 1990s. Kim Jong-un was being groomed to be the successor since his father’s August 2008 stroke that put a spotlight on the succession question.

In the days after the announcement, U.S. and South Korean officials issued statements that expressed support for the North Korean people, hope that the new leadership will continue recent diplomatic initiatives with Washington and Seoul, and a desire for a smooth transition in Pyongyang. (For the text of these statements as well as a joint message from several Chinese state and communist party organs, see the Appendix. U.S. and South Korean influence over events in North Korea is widely believed to be limited. In the coming weeks, the Obama Administration will be confronted with a decision of whether to persist with two proposed new agreements that reportedly were in the process of being concluded with the Kim Jong-il government in mid- December: a resumption of U.S. food assistance, and in return, a reported agreement by North Korea to shut down key sites of its nuclear program and open them to international monitoring.

CRS — Foreign Assistance to North Korea

June 28, 2011 Comments off

Foreign Assistance to North Korea (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via U.S. Department of State, Foreign Press Center)

Since 1995, the United States has provided North Korea with over $1.2 billion in assistance, of which about 60% has paid for food aid and about 40% for energy assistance. As of early February 2011, the United States is not providing any aid to North Korea, except for a small medical assistance program. The Obama Administration, along with the South Korean government, have said that they would be willing to provide large-scale development aid if North Korea takes steps to irreversibly dismantle its nuclear program.

Energy Assistance. After a two-year hiatus, U.S. energy aid resumed in the fall of 2007 after progress was made in the Six-Party Talks—involving North Korea, the United States, China, Japan, and Russia—over North Korea’s nuclear program. The United States and other countries began providing heavy fuel oil (HFO) in return for Pyongyang freezing and disabling its plutonium-based nuclear facilities. However, no additional energy assistance has been provided through the Six-Party process since North Korea withdrew from the talks in 2009, following condemnation and sanctions by the U.N. Security Council for North Korea’s April 2009 launch of a suspected long-range missile and May 2009 test of a nuclear device.

In 2007 and 2008, the United States also provided technical assistance to help in North Korea’s nuclear disablement process. In 2008, Congress took steps to legally enable the President to give expanded assistance for this purpose. However, following North Korea’s actions in the spring of 2009, Congress rejected the Obama Administration’s requests for funds to supplement existing resources in the event of a breakthrough. Congress did approve monies for the State Department’s general emergency non-proliferation fund that the Administration could use in North Korea.

Food Aid. Since the mid-1990s, North Korea has suffered from chronic, massive food shortages. Food aid—largely from China, South Korea, and the United States—has been essential in filling the gap. In 2008 and 2009, the U.S. shipped about a third of a planned 500,000 metric ton food aid pledge before disagreements with the North Korean government led to the program’s cessation. In 2010 and 2011, in response to continued food shortages, Pyongyang reportedly asked the United States and South Korea to renew large-scale food aid, and the U.N. has issued an appeal for assistance.

Providing food to North Korea poses a number of dilemmas for the United States. Pyongyang has resisted reforms that would allow the equitable distribution of food and help pay for food imports. Additionally, the North Korean government restricts the ability of donors to operate in the country. Multiple sources have asserted that some of the food assistance going to North Korea is routinely diverted for resale in private markets or other uses. However, it is likely that food aid has helped feed millions of North Koreans, possibly staving off a repeat of the famine conditions that existed in North Korea in the mid-late 1990s, when 5%-10% of the population died due to food shortages.

In deciding how to respond to North Korea’s current request, the Obama Administration must make a number of decisions, including whether to resume food aid; if so, whether to condition food aid on progress in security and/or human rights matters; whether to link assistance to Pyongyang easing its restrictions on monitoring; and whether to pressure China to monitor its own food aid.

This report will be updated periodically to track changes in U.S. provision of aid to North Korea.

CRS — Imports from North Korea: Existing Rules, Implications of the KORUS FTA, and the Kaesong Industrial Complex

June 14, 2011 Comments off

Imports from North Korea: Existing Rules, Implications of the KORUS FTA, and the Kaesong Industrial Complex (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

In early 2011, many Members of Congress focused their attention on U.S. rules and practices governing the importation of products and components from North Korea. Their interest was stimulated by debate over the proposed South Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement (KORUS FTA) and the question of whether the agreement could lead to increased imports from North Korea. Some observers, particularly many opposed to the agreement, have argued that the KORUS FTA could increase imports from North Korea if South Korean firms re-export items made in the Kaesong Industrial Complex (KIC), a seven-year-old industrial park located in North Korea, where more than 100 South Korean manufacturers employ over 45,000 North Korean workers. Two concerns expressed by critics are (1) that South Korean firms could obtain low-cost KIC- made goods or components, incorporate them into finished products and then reship the goods to the United States with “Made in [South] Korea” labels so that they would receive preferential treatment under the KORUS FTA; and (2) that such exports would benefit the North Korean government.

At present, North Korea’s relative economic isolation and an array of U.S. restrictions have resulted in less than $350,000 in U.S. cumulative imports from North Korea since 2000. Thus, the issue of U.S. imports from North Korea is essentially about what might happen in the future.

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