APLN Newsletter (19 June 2020)
APLN Newsletter

APLN Newsletter (19 June 2020)

Dear APLN members and colleagues,

Greetings to you! We hope that you’re well. Please find below our second newsletter for June.


APLN’s Activities

APLN’s Statement on COVID-19 and Nuclear Security

On June 16th, 2020, the APLN released a statement on COVID-19 and nuclear security, written by our Chair Gareth Evans and Vice-Chair and Executive Director Chung-in Moon. APLN responds to the challenges that the world currently faces in the midst of economic crises, protectionism and rivalry, territorial and border disputes, and discord over arms control. The statement reiterates the importance of global nuclear governance and principled political leadership to lead the world towards commitment for nuclear arms control and disarmament.

Please find the statement on our website.


Members’ Activities

Finally, APLN Member Robert Carlin in “Cutting the Lines to the South”, published on June 9th, in 38 North, Carlin analyzed the recent announcements and warnings issued by the DPRK surrounding the Joint Liaison office with South Korea. He concludes that this process has been carefully considered and staged by the North Korean government, and should not be characterized as haphazard or spur of the moment, and certainly is about more than a single propaganda leaflet campaign.

On June 5th, 2020, Robert Carlin wrote a book review for 38 North on Becoming Kim Jong Un: A Former CIA Officer’s Insights into North Korea’s Enigmatic Young Dictator by Jung H. Pak. Published on April 28th, 2020, this book examines the North Korean leader as a former deputy national intelligence officer at the National Intelligence Council where the author led the U.S. intelligence community’s production of strategic analysis on Korean Peninsula issues. Carlin explains that this book provides compelling examples of why the U.S. has been in a stalemate with the North after so many decades. While Carlin alludes to the interesting approach in discussing perspectives on North Korea by the CIA, he points out weaknesses of Agency analyses and corrects some factual misrepresentations.



On May 26th, 2020, Isabelle Williams wrote “The Global Enterprise: a Roadmap to Achieving Success at the 2021 NPT Review Conference,” for the European Leadership Network. In the article, Williams writes about the NPT Review Conference (RevCon), which was postponed to 2021, as well as the Global Enterprise to Strengthen Nonproliferation and Disarmament (GE) that was created to advance the Treaty’s goals. GE focuses on three goals in particular: risk reduction, transparency, and fissile missile management in order to encourage like-minded states to move forward on the practical implementation of commitments in NPT.

Nikolai Sokov, a Senior Fellow at the Vienna Center for Disarmament and Non-Proliferation (VCDNP) published an analysis piece titled, “Russia Clarifies Its Nuclear Deterrence Policy” on June 3rd, 2020. On June 2, 2020, President Putin signed a decree called, “Foundations of State Policy of the Russian Federation in the Area of Nuclear Deterrence,” which is the new Russian nuclear policy. While it shares similar conceptual foundations from the past, it is a positive development as it clarifies many of the points that were debated in the past. However, it also features new major uncertainties and serious contradictions.

On June 5th, 2020, Joe Gould wrote for DefenseNews, “Lead Dems Back Bill to Ban Live Nuclear Tests.” Gould examines a bill led by Senator Ed Markey (Democrat-Massachusetts) that aims to block the Trump administration from resuming testing of nuclear weapons. Although lacking support from Republicans, Democrats believe that the Preserving Leadership Against Nuclear Explosives Testing, or PLANET, Act holds that nuclear testing is neither geopolitically advantageous nor worth the risks to public health. The Act would also certify the safety, security reliability of the U.S. nuclear stockpile.

Aidan Miliff, writing in War on the Rocks on June 8th, explores the logistical limitations of conflict on the India and China border, in “Tension High, Altitude Higher”. Miliff concludes that although misinterpretation is always a possibility, the logistical constraints imposed by high altitude fighting make tactical conflicts likely, but strategic escalation relatively unlikely, an especially important consideration between two nuclear powers.

On June 10th, 2020, Matthew Petti wrote for The National Interest“Could Iran Test a Nuclear Bomb Within a Year?”  Petti examines differing estimates of Iran’s capabilities of building a nuclear bomb. The International Atomic Energy Agency reports that Iran has doubled its stockpile of enriched uranium since February, but the timeline of building a nuclear weapon is still unclear. IAEA inspector David Albright states that Iran could test nuclear weapons within a year, while Richard Johnson from the Nuclear Threat Initiative states that United Nations monitoring would allow for an estimate of Iran’s nuclear weapon capabilities.

Garrett Reim wrote an article titled,  “Flight Tests Show New B61-12 Nuclear Bomb Compatible with F-15E Strike Eagle,” published by FlightGlobal on June 10th, 2020. The new -12 variant of the B61 nuclear weapon is a part of a 20-year life-extension program at the Sandia National Laboratories, built with reused components from ageing munition, remanufactured parts and newly designed technologies. According to the US Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration, the first B61-12 is to be manufactured in FY2022.

On June 11th, 2020, Kelsey D. Atherton wrote for Forbes, “U.S. Test Drops Dummy of New ‘Precision’ Nuclear Bomb Designed to Reduce Collateral Damage.” Atherton describes the successful testing of the new B61-12 nuclear gravity bomb, which was created as a part of the Department of Energy’s “B61-12 Life Extension Program,” which has the goal of reducing collateral damage and improving the precision of nuclear weaponry. This could aid in combating underground targets, such as other nation’s nuclear facilities. This program aims to reassemble existing weapons parts into new weapons.

On June 11th, 2020, Yaakov Katz wrote for the Jerusalem Post“Coronavirus Has Not Stopped Iran’s March to a Nuclear Bomb.” Katz asserts that despite the estimated tens of thousands dead from COVID-19, the Iranian regime has increased production of 4 percent enriched uranium, which shows that Iranian research and development on nuclear weapon production is continuing. If Iran’s uranium enrichment production reaches military levels, the current Trump administration could likely react with military force. This is important because the IDF’s Military Intelligence Research Division has plans to present its assessment to the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense committee, which will reveal Iran’s possible plans and motivations for increasing enriched uranium production. This, as well as the results of the U.S. elections, which could very much impact an Israeli annexation in the West Bank.

On June 11th, 2020, Caleb Larson wrote for the National Interest, “Why This New Russian Submarine Could Dominate (Thanks to Nuclear Torpedoes).” Larson describes the new Russian Khabarovsk submarine, based on the Borei-class ballistic missile submarine, which is scheduled to begin trials in the White Sea later this month. This submarine is powerful because of its Poseidon torpedoes, which have a built-in nuclear warhead as well as a nuclear power plant. It is able to run in a “silent mode” at hard-to-detect speeds. This means that it could be used to target American surface battle groups because of its ability to increase speed before its opponent could react.

On June 11th, 2020, Sarah Bidgood reported in “A Nuclear Test Would Blow Up in Trump’s Face” on Foreign Policy. According to Bidgood, the Trump administration’s decision to withdraw from agreements is framed as a form of brinkmanship intended to drive Russia and China to agree to abide by Washington, D.C.’s rules. The resumption of nuclear testing is an extension of the administration’s attempt to gain an upper hand in the negotiations. However, the nuclear testing would have an opposite effect as it will not convey the information about U.S. capabilities that could change Russian or Chinese views on arms control, it will only diminish the U.S. position at the table, and because the U.S. doctrine already states that the U.S. will not resume nuclear explosive testing unless necessary to ensure the safety and effectiveness of the nuclear arsenal.

“Pakistan’s Nuclear Strategy: A Review” by Col RN Ghosh Dastidar was published by the Indian Defence Review on June 11th, 2020. Ever since the 1947 Partition of Indian sub-continent, India and Pakistan have displayed animosity and hatred for each other which led to a heightened tension and constant threats to security in the region. Losses in four wars with India has compelled Pakistan to re-evaluate its defence strategy and adopt Nuclear weapons and use of terrorism as a State policy to retaliate against India. While both India and Pakistan are known nuclear states, their nuclear programs differ in that India’s approach to nuclear weapons is fundamentally conventional whereas Pakistan’s is to negate and ensure against Indian threat and retaliation. While it is still a long way off, Pakistan is continuing its expansion and diversification to achieve parity with India by developing a wide range tactical nuclear weapons and short range low-yield weapons.

The Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation published an article titled, “America’s Allies Support New START Extension,” on June 12th, 2020. It consists of an infographic that shows where NATO partners and allies stand on New START. The New START, which is set to expire on February 5th, 2021, is the last legal restraint on the world’s two biggest nuclear arsenals. Russia has expressed its interest in a clean extension of the treaty, while the Trump administration has yet to commit, citing a desire to have more control over the nuclear arsenals of both Russia and China. Allies around the world support the extension of the treaty.

Yi Wonju’s article titled, “N.K. Tells S.Korea to ‘Stop Nonsensical’ Talk About Denuclearization” was published on June 13th, 2020, by Yonhap News Agency. Kwon Jong-gun, the director-general of the department of U.S. affairs of North Korea’s foreign ministry, expressed strong disapproval of South Korea’s continuous involvement in the DPRK-U.S. dialogue, stating that the denuclearization dialogue has been blown off not because of the absence of a mediator, but due to unmet conditions. According to Kwon, the DPRK currently is and will continue to build its force to overpower persistent threats from the U.S., calling denuclearization a ‘nonsensical talk.’ DPRK’s rather hostile response to South Korea began after the anti-Pyongyang propaganda incident, and heightened tensions continue with the North’s warning of “regretful and painful” times ahead.

On June 13th, 2020, Michael T. Klare and Daryl G. Kimball wrote an article titled, “Keep Nuclear Testing Off the Table,” published by The Boston Globe. It is a reminder of America’s responsibility to pursue policies to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and the dangers of nuclear testing, Klare and Kimball state that the U.S. should extend the New START, and should not resume nuclear testing. Despite his claims of wanting to constrain the arms race, President Trump has already withdrawn from several arms control treaties and rebuffed Russia’s offer to extend the New START in order to “win a new nuclear arms race.” Currently the U.S. is capable of demonstrating an underground nuclear test explosion in as little as six months. Thus, the Congress can and should intervene to prevent taxpayer’s funds from being used to resume nuclear weapons testing.

Hyonhee Shin and Josh Smith write for the Reuters“North Korea Destroys Inter-Korean Liaison Office in ‘Terrific Explosion’” on June 15th, 2020. They discuss the explosion of the joint liaison office by the North Koreans. Set up near the border between South and North Korea, the office was established to foster better relations. However, with continued aggression toward defectors who have campaigned by sending propaganda leaflets into the north and the recent explosion, experts have expressed concern regarding raised tensions in inter-Korean relations and peace on the peninsula.

APLN kindly asks members and colleagues to send us your recent activities or references from your respective countries to share with all those involved. Please send us any updates or resources to our email address at apln@apln.network.


Thank you.

With warm regards,

The APLN Secretariat

Asia Pacific Leadership Network

102 Sajik-ro, Jongno-gu

Seoul, Republic of Korea (03169)

Tel: +82-2-2135-2170