A Dozen Facts Donald Trump and Mike Pompeo Need To Know To Negotiate With North Korea

The primary issue that is being negotiated with North Korea is its nuclear weapons and the missiles they might be mounted on for attacks on the United States and its allies, South Korea and Japan. A meaningful agreement will have to include many technical issues.

Donald Trump and Mike Pompeo are not nuclear or rocket scientists, nor can we expect most politicians to be. But the technical facts are no less difficult to learn than the economics. (Oops! They get that wrong, too. I will push forward anyway.) Pundits commenting on the negotiations and people who simply want to understand may find this list useful. Read More

Links – June 9, 2018

What is wrong with Donald Trump’s approach to the summit with North Korea. Trump: “I am the only one who matters.” And he’s not preparing. Technical unknowns in verifying North Korea’s nuclear program. History of negotiations with North Korea. North Korea seems to be destroying a missile test stand. Like the nuclear test site, this is a significant symbolic action but may be easily reversible.

These demands for results from the North Korean summit by Senate Democrats sound like they could have come from John Bolton. Bad idea. Richard Haas breaks down how the negotiations should work but probably won’t.

By me in Pakistan Politico: The Illogic of Regime Change.

Many good points here about foreign policy realism. But the realists often carry it too far.

“Why would Assad do it?” Debunking the abstract theories surrounding Syria’s chemical attacks.

This is somewhat beyond the usual for Nuclear Diner, but it’s the only article I’ve seen that does a good job of explaining what college is likely to cost. Spoiler: it’s related more to family income than to the institution.

Links – June 1, 2018

Kim Jong Un doesn’t want American businesspeople running all over his country. He wants sanctions lifted. It’s always a bad idea not to understand what your negotiating partner wants. This article is from a few days ago, but it’s a good summary of Japan’s and China’s concerns.

Background on Kim Yong Chol, who delivered a letter from Kim Jong Un to Donald Trump. Kim Yong Chol is at center in the photo.

To nobody’s surprise, it looks like North Korea pulled everything that might have any technical use out of the Punggye-ri test site before they sealed the entrances to the tunnels. Photos of the destruction. Before and after overhead imagesSiegfried Hecker thinks it is a positive move.

Comprehensive historical database of North Korea’s nuclear program from Hecker and his co-workers at CISAC. From that history, Hecker predicts it will take 15 years to denuclearize North Korea. The Institute for Science and International Security thinks it will take much less time, but they forego verification for the first 18 months. This is odd, because they are among the most vocal proponents of unlimited inspections in Iran.

Will toughness on Iran help Trump with North Korea? Here are three reasons to doubt it.

New book: The Future of Nuclear Power in China, by Mark Hibbs.

Long Read: We are going to need truth and reconciliation commissions, or something like them, after Trump. Here is one way that might be done.

 

What Might We Learn From North Korea’s Nuclear Test Site?

Kim Jong Un announced that he would close North Korea’s nuclear test site. The Trump administration has greeted this announcement as part of its success in dealing with North Korea.

But North Korea may be doing less than Trump thinks. Read More

Links – May 8, 2018

What Russia wants most – derzhavnost means both being a great power and being recognized as such by others. It explains a lot.

What North Korea needs to give up for peace with South Korea. This seems analogous to the Soviet Union’s foreign policy before 1989. This is what would be necessary to monitor a deal with North Korea – much more complex than Iran’s agreement, which Trump is now savaging. Top photo from hereA nuclear inspection team from the International Atomic Energy Agency in Iran in 2014. CreditKazem Ghane/European Pressphoto Agency

Probably the best piece around on Benjamin Netanyahu’s spectacle on the Iran deal.

The OPCW concluded that the chemical agent used on the Skripals in Salisbury, England was “concluded that the chemical substance found was of high purity, persistent and resistant to weather conditions.”

How they do it – open source intelligence at Middlebury’s Center for Nonproliferation Studies.

Deterring Regime Change

Nuclear weapons programs come with costs: financial, reputational, and the potential for being made a target by other nuclear powers. There is also an opportunity cost in diverting smart scientists, engineers, and managers from work that might produce improvement to people’s daily lives and the economy.

Leaders understand that there are costs. In starting his nuclear weapons program in the 1970s, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto of Pakistan declared “’We will eat grass, even go hungry, but we will get [a nuclear weapon] of our own.”

The Iranian documents presented by Benjamin Netanyahu yielded one new piece of information: That Iran planned an arsenal of only five rather small (10 kiloton yield) warheads. Likewise, Kim Jong Un has declared his arsenal complete after what seems a rather sketchy set of tests. Read More

The North Korean Nuclear Test Site

South Korea reports that Kim Jong Un has offered to close North Korea’s nuclear test site at Punggye-Ri in May. He says he will invite US and South Korean experts to examine the site before its demolition to see that it is still usable.

There have been very definite statements from experts outside North Korea that the site may or may not be usable. We don’t have access to the site, so we must surmise the situation from overhead photos, seismic traces, and experience at other test sites.

The yield of the most recent test was very large, perhaps 250 kilotons. It’s hard to estimate the yields of North Korean nuclear tests because we don’t know enough about the geology of the test site. It was followed by three seismic events of 4.6, 3.5, and 2.9 magnitude, which were not tests. Read More