We had to wait until today to see the full transcript of Putin's remarks at Munich security conference

The Washinton Post today provides the full transcript of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s Prepared Remarks at 43rd Munich Conference on Security Policy, courtesy of the Munich Conference on Security Policy.

Putin’s made his speech on Saturday 10 February, and got extensive news coverage for having challenged the U.S. for “overstepping its national boundaries in every way”.

But there were some other interesting and revelatory remarks in his speech that were not covered, but which do explain some of the tensions that are being played out in other arenas,
including the United Nations.

In addition to President Putin, also present were the head of the Iranian National Security Council and chief nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani, and the new U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates – to both of whom Putin addresses some pointed remarks, as shown below.

(It is interesting that there were 3,500 German security forces on duty to protect the participants in the Munich conference, while the Swiss mobilized 8,000 troops for its Davos World Economic Forum…)

Here is an extended excerpt from Putin’s speech:
“The role of multilateral diplomacy is significantly increasing. The need for principles such as openness, transparency and predictability in politics is uncontested and the use of force should be a really exceptional measure, comparable to using the death penalty in the judicial systems of certain states.
However, today we are witnessing the opposite tendency, namely a situation in which countries that forbid the death penalty even for murderers and other, dangerous criminals are airily participating in military operations that are difficult to consider legitimate. And as a matter of fact, these conflicts are killing people – hundreds and thousands of civilians!
But at the same time the question arises of whether we should be indifferent and aloof to various internal conflicts inside countries, to authoritarian regimes, to tyrants, and to the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction … Can we be indifferent observers in view of what is happening? I will try to answer your question as well: of course not.
But do we have the means to counter these threats? Certainly we do. It is sufficient to look at recent history. Did not our country have a peaceful transition to democracy? Indeed, we witnessed a peaceful transformation of the Soviet regime – a peaceful transformation! And what a regime! With what a number of weapons, including nuclear weapons! Why should we start bombing and shooting now at every available opportunity? Is it the case when without the threat of mutual destruction we do not have enough political culture, respect for democratic values and for the law?
I am convinced that the only mechanism that can make decisions about using military force as a last resort is the Charter of the United Nations … The use of force can only be considered legitimate if the decision is sanctioned by the UN. And we do not need to substitute NATO or the EU for the UN. When the UN will truly unite the forces of the international community and can really react to events in various countries, when we will leave behind this disdain for international law, then the situation will be able to change. Otherwise the situation will simply result in a dead end, and the number of serious mistakes will be multiplied. Along with this, it is necessary to make sure that international law have a universal character both in the conception and application of its norms.
And one must not forget that democratic political actions necessarily go along with discussion and a laborious decision-making process.

Dear ladies and gentlemen!
The potential danger of the destabilisation of international relations is connected with obvious stagnation in the disarmament issue. Russia supports the renewal of dialogue on this important question.
It is important to conserve the international legal framework relating to weapons destruction and therefore ensure continuity in the process of reducing nuclear weapons.
Together with the United States of America we agreed to reduce our nuclear strategic missile capabilities to up to 1700-2000 nuclear warheads by 31 December 2012. Russia intends to strictly fulfil the obligations it has taken on. We hope that our partners will also act in a transparent way and will refrain from laying aside a couple of hundred superfluous nuclear warheads for a rainy day. And if today the new American Defence Minister declares that the United States will not hide these superfluous weapons in warehouse or, as one might say, under a pillow or under the blanket, then I suggest that we all rise and greet this declaration standing. It would be a very important declaration.

Russia strictly adheres to and intends to further adhere to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons as well as the multilateral supervision regime for missile technologies. The principles incorporated in these documents are universal ones.
In connection with this I would like to recall that in the 1980s the USSR and the United States signed an agreement on destroying a whole range of small- and medium-range missiles but these documents do not have a universal character.
Today many other countries have these missiles, including the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the Republic of Korea, India, Iran, Pakistan and Israel. Many countries are working on these systems and plan to incorporate them as part of their weapons arsenals. And only the United States and Russia bear the responsibility to not create such weapons systems.
It is obvious that in these conditions we must think about ensuring our own security.

At the same time, it is impossible to sanction the appearance of new, destabilising high-tech weapons. Needless to say it [this] refers to measures to prevent a new area of confrontation, especially in outer space. Star wars is no longer a fantasy – it is a reality. In the middle of the 1980s our American partners were already able to intercept their own satellite.
In Russia’s opinion, the militarisation of outer space could have unpredictable consequences for the international community, and provoke nothing less than the beginning of a nuclear era. And we have come forward more than once with initiatives designed to prevent the use of weapons in outer space.
Today I would like to tell you that we have prepared a project for an agreement on the prevention of deploying weapons in outer space. And in the near future it will be sent to our partners as an official proposal. Let’s work on this together

Plans to expand certain elements of the anti-missile defence system to Europe cannot help but disturb us. Who needs the next step of what would be, in this case, an inevitable arms race? I deeply doubt that Europeans themselves do.
Missile weapons with a range of about five to eight thousand kilometres that really pose a threat to Europe do not exist in any of the so-called problem countries. And in the near future and prospects, this will not happen and is not even foreseeable. And any hypothetical launch of, for example, a North Korean rocket to American territory through western Europe obviously contradicts the laws of ballistics. As we say in Russia, it would be like using the right hand to reach the left ear.
And here in Germany I cannot help but mention the pitiable condition of the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe.
The Adapted Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe was signed in 1999. It took into account a new geopolitical reality, namely the elimination of the Warsaw bloc. Seven years have passed and only four states have ratified this document, including the Russian Federation.
NATO countries openly declared that they will not ratify this treaty, including the provisions on flank restrictions (on deploying a certain number of armed forces in the flank zones), until Russia removed its military bases from Georgia and Moldova. Our army is leaving Georgia, even according to an accelerated schedule. We resolved the problems we had with our Georgian colleagues, as everybody knows. There are still 1,500 servicemen in Moldova that are carrying out peacekeeping operations and protecting warehouses with ammunition left over from Soviet times. We constantly discuss this issue with Mr Solana and he knows our position. We are ready to further work in this direction.
But what is happening at the same time? Simultaneously the so-called flexible frontline American bases with up to five thousand men in each. It turns out that NATO has put its frontline forces on our borders, and we continue to strictly fulfil the treaty obligations and do not react to these actions at all.
I think it is obvious that NATO expansion does not have any relation with the modernisation of the Alliance itself or with ensuring security in Europe. On the contrary, it represents a serious provocation that reduces the level of mutual trust. And we have the right to ask: against whom is this expansion intended? And what happened to the assurances our western partners made after the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact? Where are those declarations today? No one even remembers them. But I will allow myself to remind this audience what was said. I would like to quote the speech of NATO General Secretary Mr Woerner in Brussels on 17 May 1990. He said at the time that: ‘the fact that we are ready not to place a NATO army outside of German territory gives the Soviet Union a firm security guarantee’. Where are these guarantees?
The stones and concrete blocks of the Berlin Wall have long been distributed as souvenirs. But we should not forget that the fall of the Berlin Wall was possible thanks to a historic choice – one that was also made by our people, the people of Russia – a choice in favour of democracy, freedom, openness and a sincere partnership with all the members of the big European family.
And now they are trying to impose new dividing lines and walls on us – these walls may be virtual but they are nevertheless dividing, ones that cut through our continent. And is it possible that we will once again require many years and decades, as well as several generations of politicians, to dissemble and dismantle these new walls?

Dear ladies and gentlemen!
We are unequivocally in favour of strengthening the regime of non-proliferation. The present international legal principles allow us to develop technologies to manufacture nuclear fuel for peaceful purposes. And many countries with all good reasons want to create their own nuclear energy as a basis for their energy independence. But we also understand that these technologies can be quickly transformed into nuclear weapons.
This creates serious international tensions. The situation surrounding the Iranian nuclear programme acts as a clear example. And if the international community does not find a reasonable solution for resolving this conflict of interests, the world will continue to suffer similar, destabilising crises because there are more threshold countries than simply Iran. We both know this. We are going to constantly fight against the threat of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
Last year Russia put forward the initiative to establish international centres for the enrichment of uranium. We are open to the possibility that such centres not only be created in Russia, but also in other countries where there is a legitimate basis for using civil nuclear energy. Countries that want to develop their nuclear energy could guarantee that they will receive fuel through direct participation in these centres. And the centres would, of course, operate under strict IAEA supervision.
The latest initiatives put forward by American President George W. Bush are in conformity with the Russian proposals. I consider that Russia and the USA are objectively and equally interested in strengthening the regime of the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their deployment. It is precisely our countries, with leading nuclear and missile capabilities, that must act as leaders in developing new, stricter non-proliferation measures. Russia is ready for such work. We are engaged in consultations with our American friends.

In general, we should talk about establishing a whole system of political incentives and economic stimuli whereby it would not be in states’ interests to establish their own capabilities in the nuclear fuel cycle but they would still have the opportunity to develop nuclear energy and strengthen their energy capabilities.


Just sign on the dotted line

The Conference on Disarmament — which calls itself, and which is, the world’s only multilateral forum for disamament — has been deadlocked for ten years.

The stand-off is due to disputes that date back to the indefinite (permanent) extension of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in (NPT) 1997, and the subsequent conclusion of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) in 1998.

Many “non-aligned” countries wanted the official nuclear weapons powers to make some sort of committment to eventual, total, global disarmament — including nuclear. [Quotation marks are used here not to disparage the “non-aligned” grouping in any way, but to reflect the fact that the term was oriented to a political distance that the members of this grouping wanted to keep during the East-West confrontation, which has now ended, at least in its former form, with the fall of the Berlin Wall and the winding-down of the Cold War. The main division in the world now, it is asserted here, is between the world’s nuclear powers and the rest of the world.]

Eventual, total, global disarmament is an obligation placed on the officially-recognized nuclear weapons powers by the NPT. And, the nuclear powers are all together on this one — they say they’ll get to it, eventually. Meanwhile, there are regular proud announcments by the U.S., the world’s largest nuclear weapons states, about how much they and the Russian Federation have agreed to cut their two respective stockpiles. (Experts caution against over-optimistic interpretation of these announcements). The U.S. also regularly note that it has paid a lot to help the post-Communist Russian Federation (disadvantaged during its transition to a “market economy”) safeguard its nuclear arsenal.

The idea has always been that only when these two largest nuclear weapons powers get down to a certain level (at some unspecified time in the future). Eventually, the others — China, then France and Britain — are also supposed to join in (though there is an active debate now within Britain about chucking its nuclear weaponry, and it should be noted that both France and Britain are effectively sheltered under the U.S. “nuclear umbrella”).

The problem is that the “non-aligned” countries feel that this is an intolerable state of discrimination — a nuclear “apartheid”, which creates a big and exclusionary divide between the nuclear haves, and have-nots. The “non-aligned” can’t even get satisfactory “negative security assurances” – guarantees that they won’t be attacked by the nuclear weapons powers. The qualified offers that have been made are exemplary case studies in hair-splitting. However, it might be safe to say that the U.S. is the only country that has explicitly not renounced its first strike capability

One of the most hair-raising arguments ever was contained in the oral presentation made by the U.S. delegation to the International Court of Justice, during hearings that preceeded the ICJ’s fairly useless advisory opinion on the legality of the use of nuclear weapons. In that presentation, a second-level of the U.S. Department of Defense brushed away the discussion of whether or not it might ever be legal to use nuclear weapons, by telling the Court that nuclear weapons had in fact been used, every day, over the past 50 (and now more than 60) years, since the U.S. atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 6 and 9, 1945 — to deter attacks from others.

Anyway, in the Conference on Disarmament, the U.S. (and the other official nuclear weapons powers — who also just happen to be the five Permanent Members of the UN Security Council — but there is no official connection between these two facts) was quite happy to have the NPT extended. President Bill Clinton even signed the CTBT — but then declined, a year later, to submit it to the U.S. Congress for approval, because it seemed certain to be defeated by conservative and mostly Republic opposition.

Since then, the U.S., and all its many friends and allies, have been saying, over and over, that the only issue ripe for treaty negotiations is a cut-off of production of fissile material needed to make nuclear explosions. The U.S. only believes that future production should be banned. The U.S. says it has not produced any fissile material since 1988 (it doesn’t need to — it has more than enough already). It does not propose a cut in existing stockpiles.

Nobody really opposes such a treaty.

However, China has said that it would also like discussion of its top national security priority — a ban on the “weaponization” or “militarization” of space. And, China does not want just empty talk — the idea, China says, is that this should lead to “real” negotiations on a “legally-binding instrument”, or treaty. The U.S. will not agree to this. So, China will not agree to decide to start “Fiss-Ban” negotiations.

Therefore, China is blamed for holding up progress in the Conference on Disarmament. (The Conference operates on the rule of “consensus”, meaning that all members must agree before a decision is taken or a measure adopted. If anyone disagrees, no decision is taken, or no measure is adopted. The effect is that each member of the Conference has a veto.)

China would probably have been embarrassed into modifying its position in the Conference on Disarmament, which could perhaps be justified as being in the interest of Confucian “harmony”,
if it hadn’t had the so-far-unwavering support of the Russian Federation — which supports working on both a Fiss-Ban and Prevention of an Arms Race in Outer Space (PAROS).
Russian President Putin’s outburst against the U.S. at the security conference in Munich this past weekend — in which, among other things, Putin repeated his opposition to the extension of the US anti-missile shield (for which the US unilaterally dropped its Anti-Ballistic Missile, or ABM, treaty with Russia) to European sites on Russia’s doorstep.

For, earlier this month, Christina Rocca. the new U.S. Ambassador to the Conference on Disarmament — which meets at the UN Office in Geneva — repeated the U.S. proposal, with some insistence.

“The United States believes strongly that negotiating a legally binding ban on the production of fissile material for use in nuclear weapons and other nuclear explosive devices cannot be delayed any longer. The international community has expressed a desire for such a treaty in one form or another for decades. Here in the Conference on Disarmament, the history of this issue is somewhat shorter, but equally unsuccessful, despite the overwhelming support that negotiation of such a treaty enjoys … As a matter of record, there is a draft text from which we may begin. It is at once disarmingly simple and understandably complex. To establish the legal norm in a treaty is, in itself, simple. The discussions necessary to codify this ban will be complex. Nevertheless, the goal of ending the production of fissile material is achievable. The world community expects it of us. … [T]he mandate we proposed for such negotiations last year fully captures what is agreed and what is not. Our proposed mandate focuses on the one element on which we all agree, that is, that there should be a negotiation in the CD to ban the production of fissile material for use in nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices. Beyond that essential point, our proposed mandate does not rule anything in during a negotiation, nor does it rule anything out; and it perfectly reflects the Shannon Report’s conclusion that any delegation may raise any issue it deems important in the course of negotiations. As to the Treaty itself, the United States has given considerable thought to what an FMCT should look like. The draft treaty that we have put forward sets forth the essentials needed for an FMCT that would meet the objective of ending expeditiously the production of fissile material for use in nuclear weapons. Our presentations last year made clear our position on some of the difficult issues we will encounter during the course of negotiations. To summarize our draft, the basic obligation under the treaty, effective at entry into force, would be a ban on the production of fissile material for use in nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices. The definitions set forth in the U.S. draft treaty on ‘fissile material’ and ‘production’ represent the outgrowth of the decade-long international discussion regarding what an FMCT should encompass. In our draft, stocks of already existing fissile material would be unaffected by the FMCT. Finally, also in keeping with past discussions of this issue, the production of fissile material for non-explosive purposes, such as fuel for naval propulsion, would be unaffected by the treaty. Our draft Treaty contains all the elements necessary to support a negotiation and we urge our colleagues … to focus attention on this document as the most efficient means to finally begin this process. We have just spent three informal sessions on nuclear disarmament. As we said during those discussions, a necessary step in the achievement of a world free of nuclear weapons must of necessity be a ban on the production of nuclear material for those nuclear weapons. We also reiterate our view that, pending the conclusion of a Cutoff Treaty and the Treaty’s entry into force, all states should declare publicly and observe a moratorium on the production of fissile material for use in nuclear weapons, such as the United States has maintained since 1988.”


Today, in the Conference on Disarmament, Ambassador Rocca made a statement denouncing China’s shooting down of an ageing satellite by a ground-based missile. At the same time, she indicated firm opposition to the start of any substantial work on the prevention of an arms race in outer space, as China (and Russia) have asked.

“The January 11 test of an anti-satellite (or ASAT) weapon reminds us that a relatively small number of countries are exploring and acquiring capabilities to counter, attack, and defeat vital space systems, including those of the United States”, she said. It demonstrated “emerging threats to our space assets”, and the debris it created posed an “increased risk to human spaceflight and space infrastructure”, she said. “The United States confirmed through its space tracking sensors that the January 11 event created hundreds of pieces of large orbital debris, the majority of which will stay in orbit for more than 100 years. A much larger number of smaller, but still hazardous, pieces of debris were also created’, she said.

“All space-faring nations deserve an explanation for … the action taken on January 11”, Ambassador Rocca told the delegates at the Conference.

However, she said, this did not move the American administration one inch, or one, centimeter in the direction of being even willing to discuss the prevention of an arms race in outer space. The U.S., she said, is perfectly satisfied with the 40-year-old Outer Space Treaty (though U.S. diplomats dismiss many other international agreements of that age as “ancient history”). What is needed, instead, she said, is to work for more universal adherence to the Outer Space Treaty.

Ambassador Rocca asserted that the U.S. reserved the right to defend its space assets: “Just as the United State reserves the right to protect its infrastructures and resources on land, so too do we reserve the right to protect our space assets. This principle was first established for the United States by President Eisenhower and is also enshrined in the 1967 Outer Space Treaty. Consistent with this principle, the United States views the purposeful interference with its space systems as an infringement on our rights, just as we would view interference with U.S. naval and commercial vessels in international waters as an infringement on our rights. I emphasize that, by maintaining the right of self-defense, the United States is not out to claim space for its own or to weaponize it. Our policy is not about establishing a U.S. monopoly of space, as some have asserted.”

But, she also insisted, there was still no arms race in outer space.

“Critics, however like to claim that our National Space Policy ignores or downplays U.S. international legal obligations and that the Administration’s opposition to space arms control may spur an arms race in space. Let me state it clearly and to the point: the President’s space policy does not advocate, nor direct the development or deployment of weapons in space. Nonetheless, we are told that there must be a ban to prevent weapons in space. We have some experience in that regard. For many years the U.S. engaged in such talks with the Soviet Union to no avail, largely because no one then, or now for that matter, could formulate an agreed definition of what is meant by ‘space weapon’. What is often meant is whatever the U.S. may be exploring in terms of ballistic missile defenses in space, but not weapons on the ground that would attack satellites in space. And without a definition, one is left with loopholes and meaningless limitations that endanger national security. Some assert that the recent test of an ASAT weapon, which has drawn so much international attention and concern, constitutes a further reason to pursue outer space arms control, as some have proposed. The U.S. submits that they have drawn the wrong conclusion. It is regrettable that some countries’ attempts to link important issues like the Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty and PAROS have contributed to tying up movement in the CD for years. It is also regrettable that China has conducted this ASAT demonstration, endangering hundreds of satellites with the resulting debris. And it is regrettable that China continues to call for an arms control arrangement which, if its recent behavior is any indication, would not ban its ASAT activities nor address the fears its actions have stoked. The system that was tested January 11 was not based in space, but launched from the ground. PAROS, as we have usually discussed it in this Conference, would not ban such a weapon. Indeed, China has claimed that this ASAT weapon test was consistent with long-standing support for PAROS. Despite the ASAT test, we continue to believe that there is no arms race in space, and therefore no problem for arms control to solve … We should focus our efforts on ensuring free access to space for peaceful purposes and deterring and dissuading the misuse of space, seeking universal adherence to the existing treaties and conventions to which not all members have signed up to. This is precisely what the U.S. National Space Policy states. We believe this approach will have more of a deterrent and dissuasion effect than an additional set of international constraints – constraints that would be unverifiable, protect no one, and constrain only those who comply and not those who cheat.”

Why did China shoot down one of its own satellites, now?

Why did China shoot down one of its own “old” satellites, orbiting more than 500 miles out in space, now? It did so to influence the debate in the Conference on Disarmament, which opened its 2007 session at the Palais des Nations in Geneva on Monday.

China, which has traditionally maintained a rather low profile in international organizations, has stubbornly refused to give up its insistence on having real, meaningful negotiations on outer space in the Conference on Disarmament.

Its top national security concern, China has been saying, is the prevention of an arms race in outer space (known as PAROS, in disarmament lingo). It wants its concerns respected, and taken seriously.

Now, China may have gotten the Conference on Disarmament’s full attention.

China has apparently used a medium-range missile to shoot down one of its own “ageing” satellites — an event which the U.S. says is a “a matter of concern”, because it indicates a possible threat to American satellites.

Asia Times Online’s China Editor Wu Zhong reported on 22 January that the Chinese test “has surprised the international community as it is the first time that a ground-based missile has been launched successfully to destroy an orbiting satellite“.

The worldwide reaction began with the first reports of the Chinese test last week — nearly a week after the 11 January test actually happened — and only appears to be growing.

One strand was perhaps intended to offer China a somewhat clumsy way to save face — based on the premise, reported in the New York Times on 22 January, that China’s leaders did not know about test (this hypothesis is reinforced by the lack of comment from China), at least in any detail, beforehand. This school of thought believes that the international outcry and not been adequately anticipated.

The U.S. State Department announced on 22 January that Chinese officials had, over the weekend, acknowledged the test — but these officials said the world should not view it as a threat — in discussions in Beijing with visiting State Department official Christopher Hill, who, as it happened, travelled to China to discuss another matter (North Korea). This admission to Hill may well have been the source of the New York Times story.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry finally said, on 23 January, that it had confirmed the test to “some” countries — apparently including the U.S. and Japan. The Associated Press reported that Foreign Ministy spokesman Liu Jianchao told journalists: “China has opposed the weaponization of space and any arms race,” and added that the test was not targeted toward any country.

Another strand of reaction scolds China for creating a dangerous cloud of space debris particles, which could endanger other satellites and possibly even the International Space station

The Center for Defense Information, a Washington-based think tank, has condemned the Chinese test as “provocative and irresponsible”, and says that it “should be roundly condemned. The deliberate creation of persistent space debris in a highly used orbit is simply unacceptable behavior in space”.

The CDI said, in its 22 January analysis, that “It is unclear what Beijing hoped to accomplish with this provocative test. China has been one of the major players pushing for a treaty that would prevent the weaponization of space”, and added that “Some observers have suggested that the ASAT test could have been a strategic move by the Chinese to bully the United States into actually discussing such a treaty”.

According to the CDI, “the United States and the international community need to take the time to finally have the difficult discussion about what actions are acceptable in space and, more importantly, which ones are absolutely unacceptable. Otherwise, space will become the new Wild West, a situation that is guaranteed to put everyone^’s space assets even more at risk”.

A sub-debate has developed among arms specialists about the level of expertise required for the successful Chinese test.

Canada’s Globa and Mail, in an article from Beijing published on 22 January, said that “The satellite was only about a metre in length, so its destruction by a ballistic missile was a highly impressive show of precision targeting”.

Other reports have suggested that the mission was facilitated by the fact that the Chinese military controlled the signalling from the satellite, which helped the missile home in on the target.

The CDI in Washington did not minimize the achievement: “China’s FY-1C weather satellite, in a polar orbit, was launched in 1999 and approaching the end of its lifespan, but it still worked electronically. This capability allowed it to be tracked by Chinese radar and its path adjusted so that its orbit would be conducive to an intercept. However, to directly intercept an object moving roughly 15,000 mph takes a tremendous amount of accuracy. The FY-1C was spotted by various space surveillance networks on Jan. 11. It disappeared from view and then reappeared on Jan. 12 in a cloud of debris…”

In a message sent to the opening meeting of the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva on 22 January, UN Secretary-General BAN KI-MOON said that “the prevention of an arms race in outer space presents an urgent challenge, as such a race would seriously affect the preservation of outer space for peaceful purposes”.

There was no discussion of the Chinese test in the meeting — and China’s delegation did not say a word. Dr. Patricia Lewis, a disarmament expert who heads the Geneva-based UN Institute for Disarmament Training and Research (UNIDIR) said that this was not unexpected — as the first matter of business is always to adopt the annual session’s agenda. However, she indicated, everybody is eagerly awaiting some explanation.

China has been saying, over and over, for several years, that it wants the U.S. to agree to recognize this as China’s top national security concern, and to agree to begin negotiations on this topic. China wants real work on an “international legal instrument”, as it told the Conference on Disarmament many times, the last time was in June 2006.

China’s delegation told the Conference on Disarmament at that time, that it was willing to make one concession — to hold off, “until conditions are ripe” — dealing with a verification regime, an issue which has been the sticking point in many international treaty negotiations in recent years, and to work instead on agreement on “Technical Confidence-Building Measures”. China insists, it is necessary — it wants real, serious negotiations on a new arms control agreement addressing its concerns about outer space.

China’s concerns were formulated after intensive Chinese research over many years into U.S. positions on strategic defense and national security that have been set out in public and leaked documents — most posted on the internet — and in Congressional testimony, as well as discussed in the media and in think tanks.

Until now, however, the U.S. has been insisting that China is simply not serious about the Prevention of an Arms Race in Outer Space, but is just trying to block the start of negotiations of a cap on production of fissile material — the stuff needed to ignite nuclear explosions — which the U.S. has been arguing is the only topic ready for disarmament negotiations at the present moment.

The U.S. has also claimed that a 1967 Outer Space Treaty is adequate, but Chinese officials have complained that it only bans weapons of mass destruction in space, while leaving all other matters open.

The U.S. still has more friends and more influence than China in international politics, and a chorus of former Cold War allies shake their heads and make speeches saying that China should be more reasonable and flexible. A number of the 65 member of the Conference on Disarmament have supported the U.S. concession indicating that it would agree to open simple “talks” on space matters in a sub-body.

China has been almost isolated in its stand — but it does have the support of the Russian Federation, which still seems to harbor resentment at the American unilateral renunciation of the bilateral Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty, which the U.S. called a Cold War relic. For the U.S., apparently, the ABM Treaty had to go because it posed a legal obstacle to the development of the U.S. “star wars” or “space-based missile defense shield”.

China has said it will agree to discuss a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty (FMCT), which the U.S. wants — but only if the U.S. also agrees to discuss China’s concerns about outer space, “with a view” toward eventual real negotiations. It is very important for China to have U.S. recognition of China’s priorities.

In August 2002, China’s Ambassador HU Xiaodi said in an interview with this reporter that “we already agreed, we Chinese already agreed, to lower our demand, because originally we think it is certainly high time we have to do negotiations to try to work out a real treaty…[and] to a great extent we have already taken into account the view of the Americans. That is, OK, if you say you are not ready to do the negotiations, let’s first try to kind of discuss and to work on the item. But we have to have a clear goal in the future. Our persistent view, our position, is that we regard Outer Space as our top priority issue, and we want real negotiations on that. And for them, they think FMCT is their most urgent issue, their top priority, they want negotiations on that. And for the Group of 21, they regard Nuclear Disarmament as their top priority issue, and they want negotiations on that. In such a situation, in our mind, the really fair way to solve the issue is to give kind of equal treatment to all the three top priority items. Otherwise, you could only have a discriminatory solution. That is definitely an unfair situation. And, now, the Chinese position basically is that, if you agree to our demand on our top priority issue, we will respect your demand on your top priority issue…And, as I said, we already made great concessions. Our original and principled position is that Outer Space should have negotiations“.

One of the favorite private games of European diplomats in the Conference on Disarmament has been to try to second-guess how long the Russian support for China would last — they thought it was faltering for sure on several occasions. A number of observers in Geneva have been more convinced than ever, over the past year, that China has been on the verge of caving in.

The shooting down of its satellite on 11 January may have turned this situation around. In this context, it is not impossible that the test was carried out to settle a dispute over tactics between China’s powerful People’s Liberation Army, for example, and its diplomatic service.

Also interesting, so far, is that the Russian Federation has not betrayed and abandoned China.

The Russian Federation seems, in fact, to be, diplomatically, equally in favor of negotiating both a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty, and a treaty on the Prevention of an Arms Race in Outer Space. And, rather than feeling threatened by China’s test, as some analysts suggest, Russia may instead have decided that it is a good occasion to re-state its larger goal of influencing, if not deterring, U.S. efforts to pursue a space-based missile defense shield.

The Associated Press reported from Moscow on 22 January that a leading Russian General — the chief of the Space Forces branch of the military — has said that “A U.S. proposal to install part of its missile defense system in former Warsaw Pact nations (the Czech Republic and Poland, apparently) would be a clear threat to Russia”.

The Conference on Disarmament has been completely stalled for over ten years, since a the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) — which was negotiated in the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva, but blocked by India’s objection that it maintained nuclear apartheid — was pushed through the UN General Assembly in New York in late 1997. India was not the only member which felt that the CTBT simply prevents any other state from developing nuclear weapons, while maintaining the special status of the five official nuclear-weapons powers (U.S., Russia, China, U.K. and France – by purest coincidence, these are also the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, and the only ones with veto power). The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) says that only states which have conducted nuclear tests prior to 1 January 1967 are nuclear weapons powers; but it also says that peaceful nuclear technology should be shared, and that the five official nuclear weapons powers must work toward eventual total nuclear disarmament — which appears to be quite a long way off.

The NPT, which was originally negotiated to last 25 years after its entry into force in 1970, was extended indefinitely (forever) by a conference of states parties meeting in New York in 1995 — after the extension was blocked in the Conference on Disarmement in Geneva. The Conference on Disarmament operates on a consensus rule, which gives each of its now-65 members a veto. India, among others, objected to an indefinite extension of the NPT, preventing the Conference on Disarmament from taking this decision.

A few months later, in May 1998, first India, then neighboring rival Pakistan, conducted nuclear tests. India has since declared itself a nuclear weapons state, (though Britain archly told India, in the Conference on Disarmament, that this was legalistically impossible, because of the NPT’s definition).

These two precedents may explain the logic of China’s recent move.

Another favorite expression of new SG BAN – redoubling of efforts

The new UNSG BAN KI-MOON issued a statement on Friday, calling on all involved in the six-party talks on denuclearization of the Korean peninsula “to redouble their efforts toward implementation of the Joint Statement of 19 September 2005.” 

The UN News Centre (the UN uses British spelling) reports that the UN spokesperson noted that this Joint Statement is “a commitment to denuclearize the peninsula that has so far not been acted upon.”   

The UN News Centre adds that “The talks involve the DPRK, China, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Russia and the United States and have been going on sporadically in Beijing for several years, but have so far failed to end nuclear weapons on the peninsula. The DPRK carried out its first proclaimed nuclear test in October, after which the Security Council imposed various sanctions on the country.”  http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=21289&Cr=DPRK&Cr1=

Two of the more conservative U.S. media — Fox News and the Wall Street Journal — had reports on Friday based on criticism from the U.S. Mission to the UN (including copies of a leaked letter from the US Mission) — saying that the UN Development Programme had handed over too much hard currency, in cash, to the North Korean (DPRK) government, since 1998 — possibly improperly.  

Why does the U.S. Mission leak only to these outfits?

A UNDP official says that these practices — which are special to North Korea, being the kind of special government that it is — will stop by 1 March.  This official added that “the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had gone through a series of ‘horrific humanitarian crises’ during the 1990s, and UNDP and other agencies had responded with significant humanitarian programmes.  After the crisis period subsided, the focus of UNDP’s activities shifted back to achieving longer-term development goals, such as the Millennium Development Goals.”  This official said that the criticized actions were simply the result of “practical choices” by UNDP resident coordinators who had to make tough decisions in difficult circumstances on the ground in North Korea.  Of course, he added that “before the new measures he announced went into effect, UNDP intended to consult with the relevant Security Council sanctions committee to see if UNDP complied with the Council’s resolution” that imposed sanctions on North Korea late last year.   http://www.un.org/News/briefings/docs/2007/070119_UNDP.doc.htm

As a result of this embarrassing matter, SG BAN (who is former Foreign Minister of South Korea, and his country’s chief negotiator with North Korea) has ordered “an urgent, system wide and external inquiry into all activities done around the globe by the UN funds and programmes.” 

Well, that shows there will be no double standards.  And, it will take quite some time… 

The UN spokesperson told journalists at UNHQ/NY on Friday that SG BAN was calling for “an external audit”.  She added that “It will not be carried out overnight”.   http://www.un.org/News/briefings/docs/2007/db070119.doc.htm

IAEA chief ElBaradei worries about Iran standoff escalating

The Associated Press (AP) is reporting from Paris that “The head of the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency said Thursday he was concerned that the U.N. sanctions on Iran could escalate the standoff with Western powers over its suspected weapons program.  Mohamed ElBaradei called for a resumption of negotiations. Only applying pressure, he suggested, could prompt the Islamic republic to follow the path of North Korea, which kicked out U.N. inspectors, pulled out of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty in 2003 and then conducted its first-ever nuclear test last October.  ‘My priority is to keep Iran inside the system,” said the 2005 Nobel Peace Prize winner, speaking in Paris.  ‘My worry right now is that each side is sticking to its guns,’ he said.  ‘The international community is saying “sanctions or bust.”  Iran is saying “nuclear enrichment capability or bust” and we need somebody to reach out and be able to find a solution.’  ElBaradei, who was to meet later Thursday with France’s foreign minister, said: ‘Any effort by anybody to get the Iranians and the Europeans – and the Americans in particular – engaged would be something I welcome.
The idea that a dialogue is a reward for good behavior I disagree with,’ he said. ‘You have to engage. You have to see where they are coming from, their concerns, their paranoia, their obsessions and then try to change hearts and minds.  I don’t think sanctions will resolve the issue … sanctions in my view could lead to escalation on both sides.”  The Security Council imposed limited sanctions to punish Iran for defying a resolution demanding that it suspend uranium enrichment, a process that can produce fissile material to fuel nuclear reactors or, at purer concentrations, the core of nuclear weapons. Iran insists it only wants energy, while Western powers suspect it of seeking nuclear arms.
ElBaradei said the pressure has failed to break a consensus in Iran that the oil-rich nation needs to master the complex process of uranium enrichment. Iran this week said it is moving toward large-scale enrichment involving 3,000 centrifuges, which spin uranium gas into enriched material.  He also suggested that any military strike of Iranian nuclear facilities would ultimately not thwart its ambitions.  ‘What we know is that Iran has the knowledge, but you cannot bomb knowledge,’ he said.  ElBaradei’s said three to four years of intensive inspections in Iran by the International Atomic Energy Agency that he heads have not found indications of any undeclared nuclear facilities. But ‘we never are able to provide 100 percent guarantees’, he added.” http://www.guardian.co.uk/worldlatest/story/0,,-6354292,00.html

If the IAEA says it can never give a 100% guarantee, what more does anybody want? 

Meanwhile, the Jerusalem Post is reporting today that “Israel’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev, speaking to representatives of World Wizo [World International Zionist Organization] in Tel Aviv on Thursday, said that ‘if diplomacy fails, we will have to think about other options.’  He reiterated that while everyone in the international community agreed that Iran should not have nuclear weapons, there was a difference of opinion on how to stop the Iranians from going ahead with their nuclear program.  Regev expressed hopes that sanctions imposed by the international community against the Iranian elite, which ‘make it difficult for them to travel abroad and to shop in Harrods,’ would be effective.  ‘The number one issue in 2007 for Israel’s Foreign Ministry and all organizations dealing with Israel’s national security is Iran,’ said Regev, noting that the existentialist threat confronting Israel in 1948, 1956 and 1967 had disappeared. ‘Today this country faces no threat to its existence other than the Iranian nuclear problem,’ said Regev, who warned that President Ahmadinejad must be taken seriously.  Regev described Ahmadinejad as a true believer who articulates the aims of his regime. He also denigrated Ahmadinejad’s claim that he had nothing against Jews, only against Zionists. ‘It’s a lie,’ declared Regev, ‘because if you deny the Holocaust, it’s got nothing to do with Zionism…Not everyone who criticizes Israel is an anti-Semite,’ Regev acknowledged, ‘but if you say the Jewish state has no right to exist, and you single out the Jewish people for special treatment, there is a word for it, and that word is Anti-Semitism.’

Regev’s remarks followed a reported attempt by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to “cool the rhetoric” on Iran, as the Financial Times reported a couple of days ago: “Ehud Olmert, the Israeli prime minister, has appealed to fellow politicians to cool their rhetoric about Iran’s nuclear ambitions and stop instilling in the public a fear that they threaten Israel’s existence.  His remarks at a meeting of his Kadima party, quoted in Israeli media Tuesday, followed a build-up of increasingly strident comments by politicians and others about the threat posed by Iran’s alleged intention to produce a nuclear bomb.  Mr Olmert said the Iranian nuclear programme, which Tehran insists is for peaceful purposes, was worrying.  However, according to the mass-circulation Yedioth Ahronoth, he also told Kadima parliamentarians: ‘I believe that the world and us know how to deal with the present threat, but, please, we need to stop instilling fear of an existential threat just to grab more headlines …There is no need to make the threat worse than it is.’  In the face of mounting speculation that Israel might be prepared to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities unilaterally, the Olmert government insists it supports international efforts to find a diplomatic solution.  During a visit to China last week, Mr Olmert welcomed Beijing’s support for diplomatic efforts to prevent Iran from producing a nuclear bomb.  A political analyst familiar with the Iran issue said Mr Olmert’s reported remarks might reflect his concern that Israel should not be pushed into the frontline of the dispute…[But] Some of the most hawkish statements have come from within Mr Olmert’s coalition cabinet, notably from Ephraim Sneh, deputy defence minister, who has raised the possibility of military action as a last resort to prevent Iran obtaining a bomb.”

Meanwhile, the controversy over Iran’s nuclear program is apparently harming its saffron exports.  The English-language Iran Daily newspaper reports that “Alireza Koucheki, secretary of International Saffron Symposium, declared earlier that more than 80 percent of the world’s saffron is produced in Iran… Iran currently ranks first in saffron production with the largest area under cultivation, he said noting that this area has doubled in the past ten years while output fluctuates between 112 to 230 tons annually.  Export, he said, stands at 200 tons per annum which is sufficient to meet the global demand for the product.  Koucheki said that the top priority does not lie in production but in quality control, diversifying its use, harvesting, packing and identifying pharmaceutical use through research.”

Meanwhile, Iran Daily adds in its report, the “Saffron Exporters Union, Agriculture Jihad Ministry and Trade Development Organization intend to firmly tackle the dilemma created by some European countries for the export of Iranian saffron…The Head of Saffron Exporters Union Ali Shariati denied claims by some European states that Iranian saffron is contaminated with radioactive material leaked from neighboring nuclear centers…” http://www.iran-daily.com/1385/2761/html/economy.htm

It is now five minutes to midnight – Doomsday clock reset

“We stand at the brink of a second nuclear age. Not since the first atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki has the world faced such perilous choices…This deteriorating state of global affairs leads the Board of Directors of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists–in consultation with a Board of Sponsors that includes 18 Nobel laureates–to move the minute hand of the ‘Doomsday Clock’ from seven to five minutes to midnight. …Nuclear weapons present the most grave challenge to humanity, enabling genocide with the press of a button…

The five NPT-recognized nuclear weapon states have failed in their obligation to make serious strides toward disarmament–most notably, the United States and Russia, which still possess 26,000 of the 27,000 nuclear warheads in the world. By far the greatest potential for calamity lies in the readiness of forces in the United States and Russia to fight an all-out nuclear war. Whether by accident or by unauthorized launch, these two countries are able to initiate major strikes in a matter of minutes. Each warhead has the potential destructive force of 8 to 40 times that of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, on August 6, 1945. In that relatively small nuclear explosion, 100,000 people were killed and a city destroyed; 50 of today’s nuclear weapons could kill 200 million people.

While the possibility of launching these powerful weapons may seem remote, experts in Russia and the United States are concerned about command and control systems that depend on complex electronic communications and information. Past incidents suggest that technical failures, misperception, and miscommunication happen in even the best-maintained systems. Such errors could lead to an accidental launch already programmed in the event of attack. Experts have documented four nuclear false alarms–in 1979, 1980, 1983, and 1995–where either the United States or Soviet/Russian forces were placed on the highest alert and missile launch crews were given preliminary launch warnings.

Sixteen years after the end of the Cold War, following substantial reductions in nuclear weapons by the United States and Russia, the two major powers have now stalled in their progress toward deeper reductions in their arsenals. Equally worrisome, the United States, in its 2002 Nuclear Posture Review, declared that nuclear weapons “provide credible military options to deter a wide range of threats,” including chemical and biological weapons, as well as “surprising military developments.” In early 2004, this new concept, which espouses the quick use of even nuclear weapons to destroy “time urgent targets,” was put into operation. That the United States–a nation with unmatched superiority in conventional weapons–would place renewed emphasis on the need for nuclear weapons suggests to other nations that such arsenals are necessary to their security.

In the face of the major powers’ continued reliance on nuclear weapons, other nations are following suit. Since the end of the Cold War, three countries have announced the possession of nuclear weapons–India, Pakistan, and North Korea. Israel possesses weapons but chooses not to declare them. The director of the IAEA, Mohamed ElBaradei, believes up to 30 countries have the capacity, and increasingly the motivation, to develop nuclear weapons in a very short time span…Iran, which is a signatory state of the NPT, has violated its IAEA obligations and obstructed efforts to determine the extent of its activities. North Korea, which withdrew from the NPT in 2003, followed through on its declared intention to test a nuclear weapon three years later. Although this test prompted stern global condemnation, the international community essentially acquiesced. The dominant concern was that North Korea might sell its nuclear weapons abroad. In effect, the message from the international community was ‘don’t proliferate’ rather than ‘don’t become a nuclear power’. In this regard, the North Korean test was doubly dangerous and sets an unfortunate example for other would-be nuclear powers.”    http://www.thebulletin.org/

Atomic Scientists to express grave new concern about nuclear dangers

The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists (BAS) has just announced that they will move the minute hand of the “Doomsday Clock” forward on 17 January 2007 — the first such change to the Clock since February 2002.

The group says that this is a major new step reflecting growing concerns about a “Second Nuclear Age”, frought with grave threats, including: nuclear ambitions in Iran and North Korea, unsecured nuclear materials in Russia and elsewhere, the continuing “launch-ready” status of 2,000 of the 25,000 nuclear weapons held by the U.S. and Russia, escalating terrorism, and new pressures from climate change for expanded civilian nuclear power that could increase proliferation risks.

According to an email just received, this move will be announced simultaneously next week in Washington, D.C. and London.

The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists says that we are now in the “most perilous period since Hiroshima and Nagasaki.”

A dangerously silly and sensationalist story

The Agence France Presse (AFP) put out a silly story in early January, entitled “Israel to test installation to monitor Iran’s nuclear activity“, which gives a sensationalist slant to the participation of Israeli facilities which have actually been for several years part of the global scientific monitoring network of the Vienna-based Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization.  The aim of the monitoring network is, indeed, to monitor — and if possible to deter – any future nuclear tests.

The Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty bans all nuclear test explosions, in any environment (in the air, underwater, on the surface of the earth, etc.).

One of the singular provisions of the CTBT is that it requires ratification by all 44 states which were members of the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva in 1996, and had an advanced civilian nuclear capability – defined as possessing nuclear power or research reactors.  These states are listed in Annex II of the Treaty.  Of the 44 required states, the USA, China, Iran, Israel, Egypt, Indonesia, Congo, Colombia, and Viet Nam, have signed, but not yet ratified, the CTBT.  (Three required states –the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea [DPRK – or North Korea], India, and Pakistan — have not yet even signed.)   

But, the AFP story puts these facts in the context of the UN Security Council sanctions imposed on Iran at the end of December, for refusing to suspend its “indigenous” uranium enrichment program to produce nuclear fuel.

The report was picked up from the largest-circulation Israeli daily, Yediot Ahranot.

This was really reaching for a story, in a presumably fallow period — and, for Israel, possibily also “sabre-rattling”.  AFP editors were rather less than vigilant — after all, it was during the “fêtes”, the Christmas and New Year holidays, when Europeans are all out for a very extended lunch.

The story, dated 2 January, and written from Jerusalem, stated that “Israel Tuesday will test, for the UN, an underground installation in the Negev desert designed to monitor any attempt by arch-foe Iran to test nuclear devices, the daily Yediot Aharonot reported.   The test will consist of three strong explosions Israel will deliberately set off in the northern Negev using 15 tons of liquid explosives, to see how they register on equipment at the underground site. Each blast will be equivalent to a seismic tremor of 2.4 on the Richter scale, the report said.  The facility is equipped with seismographs and other equipment able to detect earth tremors and transmits the data directly to the International Atomic Nuclear Agency (IAEA) in Vienna via Israel’s nuclear research facility at Nahal Sorek, the paper said.  The new underground testing center is in the mountains near the Red Sea beach resort of Eilat. ‘The station will assess earth tremors, and ways to predict them and other underground and surface activity, such as nuclear tests,’ the paper quoted Rami Hofshteter of the Lod Geophysics Institute near Tel Aviv as saying.  He added that ‘recent nuclear tests in India and Pakistan were recorded perfectly’ at the Negev site. A similar testing station is located in Mount Meron in Upper Galilee in the north of Israel, the report said.  Israel and the West suspect Iran of trying to secretly build nuclear arms under the cover of a civilian atomic power program. Tehran denies the charges.  The Jewish state, widely considered the Middle East’s sole if undeclared nuclear power, considers the Islamic republic its arch-enemy following repeated calls by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for Israel to be wiped off the map.”


Did these installations also pick up North Korean testing in October 2006?

Despite the fact that the Comprehensive [Nuclear] Test Ban Treaty is not yet ratified, the CTBT’s Global Verification Regime is already in place.  A number of states which have not ratified (and even some who have not even signed), the CTBT, are nevertheless participating in the global monitoring and verification operations (including both Iran and Israel, as well as Egypt and Pakistan).

The location of their monitoring stations is easily found through a little search which leads to a drop-down menu in the official website, www.ctbto.org

This gives the following information: Israel has three monitoring stations - 
Israel Eilath MBH – Auxiliary Seismic Station – Treaty Code AS048 – Coordinates: Lat 29.8 Lon 34.9
Israel Parod PARD – Auxiliary Seismic Station – Treaty Code AS049 – Coordinates: 32.6 Lon 35.3
Israel Soreq Nuclear Research Centre Yavne – Radionuclide Laboratory – Treaty Code RL09 – Coordinates: Lat TBD Lon TBD  

It’s interesting that the Yavne site’s coordinates are listed as To Be Determined (TBD), though they must be very well known…Note that this station is not mentioned in the AFP story…

A study, entitled “The Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty: Virtually Verifiable Now”, completed in April 2004 by Dr. Ben Mines, for the British NGO Vertic (Verification Research, Training and Information Centre), states that: “The presence of specific radionuclides provides unambiguous evidence of a nuclear explosion…Half of the stations in the radionuclide network also have the capacity to detect noble gases.  The presence of noble gases can indicate if an underground explosion has taken place…Radionuclide monitoring is the only one of the four technologies that can unambiguously differentiate between a nuclear and a conventional explosion”.

For good measure, Iran has five monitoring stations:                            Tehran THR – Primary Seismic Station – Treaty Code PS21 – Coordinates: Lat 35.8 Lon 51.4
Kerman KRM – Auxiliary Seismic Station – Treaty Code AS046 – Coordinates: Lat 30.3 Lon 57.1
Masjed-e-Soleyman MSN – Auxiliary Seismic Station – Treaty Code AS047 – Coordinates: Lat 31.9 Lon 49.3
Tehran – Radionuclide Station – Treaty Code RN36 – Coordinates: Lat 35.0 Lon 52.0
Tehran – Infrasound Station – Treaty Code IS29 – Coordinates: Lat 35.7 Lon 51.4

So, Iran could also monitor any nuclear tests that Israel might carry out…though it is generally thought that Israel has never tested a nuclear weapon.  Israel apparently enjoys hinting that it has a nuclear weapons capacity, but has never officially confirmed this.  This policy is called “nuclear ambiguity”.  

Strictly speaking, testing is not necessary — it would be possible to just use a nuclear weapon, and see what happens. 

(Israeli scientists are believed to have been present and to have witnessed French nuclear testing in the Algerian desert in the 1960s, as well as what many believe to have been a South African nuclear weapons test in the south Atlantic ocean in 1979.) 

The CTBT’s global monitoring system, designed to conduct clandestine nuclear tests, could also have detected the 26 December 2004 earthquake in Indonesia — and the subsequent tsunami which caused devasation throughout coastal Asia and as far as East Africa.  But, of course, this was also during a holiday period, when many just slack off.

More significantly, one diplomat who was very deeply involved in the CTBT confirmed to me shortly after the tsunami, was the fact that Member States had not agreed, and were reluctant, to share this information with other civilian authorities — such as tsunami alert offices.

On Sunday 9 January, the BBC programme Reporters had a story, prepared by Susan Watts, containing an interviewed with CTBTO’s Dr. Peter Marshall, who designed the Test Ban Network in Vienna.  He confirmed the capability — and said that there were seismic monitors in place in Thailand and in Indonesia, among other places…Powerful computers in a Vienna office building also picked up the seismic activity. Computers at the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) Organisation are designed to monitor nuclear explosions anywhere in the world but, as a side-effect, they also detect earthquake vibrations.  Although the organisation’s staff were on holiday, the information was automatically sent to several countries including Indonesia and Thailand but, again, the emergency infrastructure was missing…All the information is supposed to be collected in the Vienna center, and re-disseminated from there — but, the BBC reported in their Reporters programme, not only was the CTBTO unmanned, during the holiday period…it was also bogged down in a Cold War mind-set about who should be given what information. ”

Some six months after the tsunami, in July 2005, this report appeared in a scientific publication:  “Sound from last December’s huge tsunami-causing earthquake was picked up by underwater microphones designed to listen for nuclear explosions.  Scientists this week released an audio file of the frighteningly long-lasting cracks and splits along the Sumatra-Andaman Fault in the Indian Ocean.  The spine-tingling hiss and rumble is an eerie reminder of the devastation and death that is still being tallied in the largest natural disaster in modern times.  At least 200,000 people are thought to have died as a result of the magnitude 9.3 earthquake, the tsunami, and the lack of food, drinkable water and medical supplies that followed.   The audio recording of the quake starts out silent. A low hiss begins and the intensity builds gradually to a rumbling crescendo. Then it tails off but, frighteningly, builds again in waves as Earth continues to tremble.   The audio file is sped up 10 times to make it easier to hear. As it was recorded, the sound was at the lower threshold of human hearing, but it could have been noted by someone paying attention.   ‘If you were diving even hundreds of miles away you could hear this,’ said study leader Maya Tolstoy of Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. ‘You would hear it as sort of a “boom.'”
An analysis of the recording suggest a new way to monitor earthquakes in near real-time, providing critical information about an earthquake’s intensity and potential hazard that could supplement seismograph data, which typically requires hours and even days to properly analyze.  ‘We were able to constrain some details such as the speed and duration of the rupture more accurately than traditional seismic methods,’ Tolstoy said. ‘Moreover, we found the earthquake happened in two distinct phases, with faster rupture to the south and slower to the north, almost as if there were two back-to-back events.’
Tolstoy told LiveScience that the recorded sounds raced from the rupture more quickly than the tsunami wave…And this was no small earthquake. It ruptured the planet along 750 miles (1,200 kilometers) of fault. Scientists estimate the Indian plate slipped 33-50 feet (10 to 15 meters) under the Burma microplate. The fault shook for at least eight minutes. A typical large earthquake lasts 30 seconds or so.  Earth’s very gravity balance was altered and the North Pole shifted by an inch.  The recorded data was provided in March to scientists by the International Monitoring System of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty…The entire quake’s sounds took about 45 minutes to reach the hydrophone. Were a system set up to use such data, analysis might be done in about 15 minutes, Tolstoy said.  The tsunami took hours to reach some locations.  The recorded data was provided in March to scientists by the International Monitoring System of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty…Tolstoy hopes that in the future scientists will gain easier and earlier access to such data.  “There is an opportunity here to make a contribution to international disaster monitoring, as well as help us better understand earthquakes and tsunamis and potentially mitigate these events in the future.” she said. “It makes sense to let others listen in.”   The sound file is here. http://www.livescience.com/forcesofnature/050722_earthquake_sound http://www.earth.columbia.edu/news/2005/images/tsun_eq.mp3  

An analysis of the data is detailed in the July/August [2005] edition of the journal Seismological Research Letters.

Qatar no longer has the presidency of the UN Security Council — the Russian Federation is President for January 2007

The Presidency rotates monthly, by alphabetical order.

The five Permanent Members of the UN Security Council are the United States, the Russian Federation, China, the United Kingdom, and France.  Each one of the Permanent Members has the veto power — meaning that each and every one of them can block a proposed resolution from passing in the UN Security Council.  It just so happens that the five Permanent Members (or P-5, as they are called) are the world’s only recognized nuclear weapons states – as enshrined in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, or NPT, meaning that they had exploded a nuclear device before 1 January 1967. 

In addition, there are ten non-permanent members, each elected (by the UN General Assembly, after nomination by regional groups) for two-year terms.  Half of them are replaced at the end of every year: five new non-permanent members are elected to replace them (for a two-year term), at the end of every year.

The five new members who took their seats on 1 January this year are Belgium, Indonesia, Italy, Panama and South Africa.  They will serve until the end of 2008.

They join the Republic of Congo, Ghana, Peru, Qatar, and Slovakia — whose terms will expire at the end of 2007.

The composition of the membership is important, because the non-permanent members also, in theory, have a sort of veto power –  because by voting NO they could, acting together, also have block the passage of a draft resolution.   It takes nine YES votes to adopt a resolution in the Security Council.

(-“Decisions on procedural matters are made by an affirmative vote of at least nine of the 15 members. Decisions on substantive matters require nine votes, including the concurring votes of all five permanent members. This is the rule of ‘great Power unanimity’, often referred to as the ‘veto’ powerhttp://www.un.org/sc/members.asp)

(Argentina, Denmark, Greece, Japan, and the United Republic of Tanzania were the five outgoing non-permanent members whose terms expired at the end of 2006.)

Prior to 1965, there were only six non-permanent seats on the UN Security Council. 

Any change in the composition of membership requires an amendment to the UN Charter.

On 3 January, Russian Federation Ambassador Vitaly Churkin, who will preside over the UN Security Council in January, held brief (a point of pride for him, apparently) informal consultations with other Council members and decided on a program of work.  Here is the schedule, as Ambassador Churkin announced it, to a UN press conference in New York:

8 January – There will be a debate on the subject of threats to international peace and security, with the participation of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.  That subject had been discussed at the 2005 Summit and would provide the Council with a great opportunity not only to look back at the past year and a half, but also at the future: Ambassador Churkin told journalists that he hoped the Council would adopt a presidential statement at that meeting.   He also said, according to a UN press release, that “The Council was a Charter institution and he believed that Member States should ‘stick to the role of the Council’ prescribed by that document.  During the meeting on threats to international peace and security, Member States would get an opportunity to express their views on what challenges the Council should be dealing with as a matter of priority.

9 January - A briefing is scheduled on the Democratic Republic of the Congo by High Representative Javier Solana, who would be talking about the European Union contribution to the operation of the United Nations Mission in that country.

9 January - the Council would consider the extension of the mandate of the United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) and the French forces in that country. 

10 January – The Council planned to consider the report of the Secretary-General on Chad-Sudan: [It was announced on 5 January that the report of the multidisciplinary technical assessment mission to Chad and the Central African Republic was publicly available.  The technical assessment mission has a mandate from the Security Council to study the potential threat to regional peace and security posed by the situation in Darfur and its possible impact on the protection of refugees on the Chad-Sudan border; among the mission’s preliminary findings, the spokesperson announced, is the confirmation of a clear threat to regional peace and security due to cross-border activities by rebel groups and a persisting humanitarian crisis affecting more than 2.3 million people.]

15 January - The Council will consider the situation in the Central African Republic.

16 January - There will be consultations on the [possible?] renewal of the mandate of the mission in Ethiopia, to be preceded by a private meeting with troop contributors.

17 January - The Council will discuss “cross-border issues in Central Africa”.

10 January – The Council is to review the situation in Somalia. 

10 January – The Council would also consider a report on the implementation of the mandate of the United Nations Mission in the Sudan (UNMIS).  It might, in addition, subject to the developments on the ground, take up the situation in Darfur and the Sudan as a whole.

11 January - The Council is expected to take up the Secretary-General’s proposals on Nepal. 

11 January – A briefing is scheduled by the 1718 Committee, dealing with non-proliferation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.  The Council, furthermore, would consider the Counter-Terrorism Committee’s work programme for the next six months.

24 January — The Council would hold consultations on the Secretary-General’s progress report on the situation in Abkhazia, Georgia.  work programme for the next six months.  last October, the Council had unanimously adopted an important resolution on the matter.  In response to a journalist’s question, Ambassador Churkin said, according to the UN press release, that “the next review of the mandate of the United Nations monitoring presence there would be coming up in April, so he viewed the discussion scheduled in January as ‘another regular thing’.  The representative of the Secretary-General would be briefing the Council about the situation…In his national capacity, he confirmed that the Russian Federation was not entirely happy with the way the authorities of Georgia had been implementing the Council’s resolution so far, but he hoped that they would address the issue positively.”

25 January – A “traditional briefing” will take place on the situation in the Middle East, especially in the light of the developments in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and Palestinian territories, to be followed by closed consultations.

To several questions regarding the Council’s sanctions against Iran, Ambassador Churkin said, according to the UN press release, that he believed, in his national capacity, that “success could be achieved if the international community worked collectively.  There had been a unanimous decision of the Security Council on Iran and he hoped that the measures applied would lead to a politically negotiated outcome of the nuclear issue.  He did not think that unilateral actions outside of collective measures would be very successful in resolving the issue.  As for Iran’s defiant statements, experience showed that, in some cases, after some initial harsh exchanges, compromise emerged.  He hoped that would happen in this case…He added that the report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) was due by 23 February –- after the end of his presidency.”

As for Kosovo, he said that Martti Ahtisaari was expected to present his status proposal to the sides after 21 January elections.  He believed that an opportunity must be given to the parties to continue their dialogue, because it would be extremely dangerous to try to impose a solution with which at least one of the parties did not agree.  [A day later, on Thursday, Reuters news agency reported from Belgrade that “Russian backing for Serbia, which says autonomy is the most it can offer a region which was once the heart of the medieval Serb kingdom, is complicating efforts to decide the issue at the U.N. Security Council, where Moscow holds a veto….Diplomats have said for months that the United States and its major European allies favor independence, supervised by the European Union and a NATO force of currently 17,000 soldiers…A U.N. blueprint on the final status of Serbia’s U.N.-run province of Kosovo, which diplomats say will open the door to independence, will be ready on January 21, a United Nations spokesman said on Thursday.  ‘It’s in the final stages,’ said Remi Dourlot, spokesman for U.N. Kosovo envoy Martti Ahtisaari. ‘It has still to be finalized but it will be ready for the 21st and to be presented any time after then.’  Serbia holds a general election on January 21, a snap vote that forced Ahtisaari to postpone an original deadline of end-2006 for his proposal on the fate of the majority ethnic Albanian province…A U.N. official told Reuters it was ‘quite likely’ Ahtisaari would brief the six-member Contact Group steering Balkan diplomacy — the United States, Britain, Germany, France, Italy and Russia — on January 26, after which he would personally present the document to Serbia and Kosovo.  Kosovo media reports say the document, to appease Russia, will fall short of recommending independence but clear the decks for individual states to recognize Kosovo. The U.N. official, who asked not to be named, said Ahtisaari might make this clear in a separate report to new U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon.  Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica on Wednesday called on Ban to protect Serbia’s territorial integrity and rule out the creation of ‘another Albanian state’.”]

The situation in Haiti would continue to be kept under review. 

Regarding Myanmar, he said that the issue was not in the Council’s work programme, but mentioned as a footnote.  While some informal exchanges on the matter had taken place, nothing official had come his way as President of the Council.  In his national capacity, he added that, along with some other Council members, Russia had voted against the inclusion of that issue in the agenda of the Security Council.  The Russian Federation did not believe the situation in Myanmar posed a threat to international peace and security.  Certain matters, including human rights, needed to be addressed in the proper fora.  [“Russia along with China, Qatar and the Congo were the only four countries to oppose the ultimately successful attempt to place Burma on the Security Council’s formal agenda in September last year”, the online Irawaddy reported on 4 January: http://www.irrawaddy.org/aviewer.asp?a=6547&z=163]

Also, Ambassador Churkin noted, the Security Council had kept Fridays open and, should the situation warrant, there was also always the possibility of a Saturday meeting.

The UN press release also noted that on the proposals to expand the membership of the Security Council, Ambassador Churkin said that “the matter would be pursued vigorously.  His national position was very clear — he would like to see a high degree of unanimity on the matter and did not want a divisive battle on reform of the Security Council.  The prerogatives of the permanent members should be preserved, but the Russian Federation accepted the need to enlarge the Council and take in some members on a more permanent basis.” ]

UN-Truth’s unofficial list of MEMBERS OF THE UN SECURITY COUNCIL – 2007: Belgium
Congo, Republic of
Russian Federation
South Africa
United Kingdom
United States

Non-rotating members (the five Permanent Members, or P-5) are listed in bold.