Last Friday, April 8, a remarkable meeting was held at the Middlebury Institute for International Studies (MIIS) in Monterey, California. Attendees included Lassina Zerbo, executive director of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization; Jerry Brown, Governor of California; Rose Gottemoeller, US Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and Nonproliferation; and Sergey Ryabkov, Deputy Foreign Minister of the Russian Federation.
Jeffrey Lewis and Melissa Hanham briefed the group on their analysis of North Korea’s progress in missiles and nuclear weapons. Lewis, Hanham, and others at MIIS have analyzed photos from North Korea to determine a great deal about those programs. Part of the purpose of the briefing was to move toward further talks with North Korea to slow down their nuclear and missile programs.
The fact that Ryabkov attended indicates interest on Russia’s part. It was an opportunity for him and Gottemoeller to discuss issues informally. And it was possible for the MIIS participants to say things that would have been very difficult for representatives of the United States government to say.
Open-source intelligence is important, and MIIS has some of the most capable people in this area. They are to be congratulated on recent insights into North Korea’s progress. Now, as Lewis has been saying, we need to do something about that.
Ambassador Henry S. Ensher of the United States Mission to the International Organizations in Vienna (that would include the CTBTO and IAEA) visited the Nevada National Security Site over the weekend. Zerbo had visited earlier. Also, Secretary of State John Kerry visited the memorial to the Hiroshima atomic bombing with other foreign ministers of the G7 on Monday. President Barack Obama is said to be considering a visit to Hiroshima. He would be the first US president to visit.
It begins to look like President Obama is putting together a strategy to press the Senate to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. That treaty would ban all nuclear testing; the United States has done no testing since 1992 and still has confidence in its nuclear stockpile. President Bill Clinton signed the CTBT in 1999, but the Senate has refused to ratify treaties for some time now.
Jessica Matthews, past president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, tells us how it all comes together:
Life as a treaty nonparty deprives Washington of a vote as new policies and institutions take shape, and weakens its leverage over others’ choices. It drains moral authority. If they were parties to the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty, the US and China would be in a stronger position, for example, to deal with North Korea’s nuclear tests than they are today.
The CTBT needs eight more signatories before it can enter into force; the others are waiting for the United States.
So the argument is likely to be that North Korea is coming closer to technologies that can endanger the US mainland; we will be able to stand stronger with our negotiating partners if we ratify the CTBT. Given Mitch McConnell and his Republican Senate, it will be an interesting confrontation.
Photo from Melissa Hanham’s tweet.