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Fallout from Kim-Trump Summit “No Deal”

Fallout from Kim-Trump Summit “No Deal”

The much-hyped second summit between President Trump and Chairman Kim Jong Un ended prematurely earlier today with both sides unable to come to an agreement on sanctions relief and DPRK concessions. Today’s failure highlights the broader tensions in normalising relations with North Korea that are likely to persist well beyond the current US presidency.

From media reports coming out of Hanoi, it appears the stumbling block was over an apparently simple trade-off: what sanctions would be eased and in return for what denuclearisation steps by the DPRK?

Ahead of the summit, there was a sense from some DPRK watchers that some sanctions could be lifted – including certain UN measures – but most must stay in place to maintain pressure on Pyongyang in order to nudge it towards compliance in the future. In terms of denuclearisation, reports suggest that Kim was prepared to freeze or close parts or all of the Yongbyon nuclear facility which houses the country’s plutonium production reactor and its only known uranium centrifuge facility. However, this is but one of several nuclear facilities that the DPRK is believed to have. Therefore, a freeze or closure would not assuredly and irreversibly end the country’s nuclear program. This point weighs on the mind of many analysts as North Korea has previously rowed back on similar freezes in its program.

While at first glance, the differences in two sides’ positions might seem reconcilable, Pyongyang’s apparent insistence on lifting all economic sanctions at once apparently prevented the two parties from reaching an agreement. While Pyongyang’s game plan is still somewhat unclear, recent events give more credence to the idea that Kim would not give up his nuclear weapons program for only an easing of sanctions. Indeed, it should be borne in mind that the DPRK’s controversial nuclear and ballistic programs do not only constitute a strong security guarantee for Pyongyang, but also provide a tool to demonstrate that the regime is using a wide array of instruments to secure concessions from the US, ranging from a peace treaty to the Korean War to assistance in economic development.

Many in the West will welcome the US’ willingness to walk away from the summit. While Kim may not be prepared to trade the nuclear weapons programme for sanctions relief, many states in the West will feel that sanctions relief should not be granted in exchange for anything else. So, there may be some relief around Western capitals that no meaningful concessions were made.

Depending on how one reads Kim’s strategy, the failure in Hanoi might not be a complete loss. Ahead of the summit, numerous countries were positioning themselves to re-enter the North Korean market assuming that sanctions would be eased. Based on Project Alpha’s work, it seems likely that North Korea will find more lax enforcement of sanctions in many parts of the world following its diplomatic efforts with the US. One key question left unanswered after the summit is the impact of the “no deal” on current North-South dialogue. Absent a full lifting of sanctions, South Korean president Moon Jae-in will not be able to pursue its policy of economic engagement with the North – unless they break said sanctions.

Perhaps more problematically from the US perspective, the North’s engagement with South Korea is likely to continue to progress even absent a US-North Korea agreement. This may result in pressure to reopen the joint industrial zone. The US could then find itself being cast as the foreign force obstructing a further easing of tensions on the peninsula. Whereas all North-South declarations since the historical 2000 inter-Korean summit enshrined the principle of a Korean reunification led by Koreans alone. We may expect to see Kim Jong-un complaining to his Southern counterpart about what he will perceive as Trump’s stubbornness, increasing pressure on South Korea’s already difficult diplomatic position.

The status quo will also not help Kim getting the much-needed foreign investment that was pledged by South Korea, and, apparently, already agreed on by Chinese companies. The previous summit allowed the DPRK to emerge as a rational and “normal” diplomatic actor, and this episode did nothing but confirm this trend, offering a glimpse into Pyongyang’s negotiation tactics. However, from North Korean’s point of view, the “no deal” in Hanoi, unless if part of a larger strategy, might give Trump administration to upper hand in any future negotiations. While the current diplomatic sequence was started by the DPRK following Kim Jong-un’s 1st of January 2018 speech, by walking away from the negotiation table the Trump administration is imposing its own agenda. Time will tell if Pyongyang will compromise on its “all or nothing” bargaining position or if we go back to brinkmanship.




Project Alpha is Hiring: Multiple Positions to be Filled

Project Alpha ( at KCL works at the intersection of non-proliferation, trade control, illicit trade and emerging technology. The team’s work includes leading edge policy and academic research on these topics and training and capacity building in relation to non-proliferation trade controls.

We are looking to augment our staff through hiring for a range of positions. Initially, all of the following positions will be available through the King’s Talent Bank, but it is anticipated that postdoctoral positions will be advertised through the KCL jobs board in early 2018.

Research Associates (grade 6)

We are interested in talking to post-docs with a PhD in a relevant area about short term and potentially longer-term research roles covering topics including:

  • Archival research related to non-proliferation
  • Production of academic articles related to non-proliferation and trade controls
  • Pursuit of other research interests in line with the Alpha Non-proliferation Programme’s objective.

Note: we will be advertising longer term Post-Doctoral positions through King’s Hirewire in the near future.


Research Interns, Affiliates and Assistants (Grade  3, 4 and 5 pay scale)

We are recruiting for a number of positions to undertake a mix of the following tasks.

  • To collect and analyse data on issues related to non-proliferation and sanctions. In the immediate term, this will likely be related to entity information on DPRK and Iranian entities.
  • To package existing data and research into stories for web and media outlets
  • To contribute to analytical articles written by senior staff
  • To conduct archival research as directed by senior staff 

Candidates for the research intern and associate positions will be invited to discuss their research interests with senior project staff. As such, candidates should have an understanding of how their research interests fit with the project’s work.

Applicants at the grade 5 “Research Assistant” grade will have a Masters degree or equivalent experience in a relevant topic.

To apply, visit:

Research Translators (grade 3/4)

 We are also looking to hire a small number of part time translators who have an understanding of the non-proliferation and security field to assist in our research. Desirable languages including Mandarin, Korean, Farsi and Arabic. While the work will involve translation of a small number of full-length documents, the main role of these posts will be in conducting foreign language search to retrieve news and results of relevance then summarising the findings for the research team.

To apply, visit:


IT Developer (Grade 7)

We are looking to hire a developer to support and improve our apache web server based software stack which uses Drupal 7 as a front end. The stack runs on an Azure virtual machine. This position could be extended for the foreseeable future and is suitable for a part time role. The tasks will include:

  • Server maintenance including installation of server updates etc
  • Addition of content to Drupal and modification of Drupal views
  • Development of new Drupal modules
  • Data visualisation


Big Data and Non-proliferation: The Alpha Proliferation Open Source Tool (Alpha-POST)

Over the last two years, Ian Stewart, director of Project Alpha, has been developing a ‘big data’ platform for non-proliferation purposes. This platform is used to inform Project Alpha’s work and acts as a test bed for big data and machine learning approaches in the non-proliferation sphere. Today, Project Alpha is publishing a paper on Alpha-POST’s design and capabilities to provide background on the platform.

The abstract of this paper, which can be downloaded HERE, reads as follows.

This paper outlines the Alpha-Proliferation Open Source Platform (Alpha-POST), developed by Project Alpha to leverage big data analysis for non-proliferation purposes. The article demonstrates how a variety of open source software tools can be fused together into a ‘software stack’ capable of ingesting, processing and leveraging vast quantities of data to aid human analysts. While Alpha-POST leverages tools such as Natural Language Processing (NLP), link chart analysis and machine learning in the non-proliferation domain, Project Alpha argues that the approaches outlined in this paper could be applied to any discipline or sphere .

A forthcoming article in the Journal of Nuclear Material Management will examine how the big data approaches developed in this platform can be used more generally in the non-proliferation domain.  Additionally, the platform will be demonstrated at the 2018 IAEA safeguards symposium.








Suspected New Pakistan Enrichment Facility Nears Completion

To complement the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS)  recent analytical report (link) on Pakistan’s growing enrichment, Project Alpha has worked with Planet Labs LLC to create a time lapse of the construction of the new Kahuta facility. This facility was first publicly identified in Project Alpha’s ‘Alpha-in-Depth’ report on Pakistan’s nuclear programme in 2016. The time-lapse shows construction since 2016 and mirrors Pakistan’s rapid build-up of nuclear weapons capabilities in recent years.

As can be seen in the higher resolution image below, the facility is close to completion, although it appears that the facility will not be operational for a number of months more given that construction of the roof has only recently been completed.

KRL facility on 2018 04 21 courtesy of Planet Labs LLC.

ISIS noted about the site:

New Centrifuge Plant?

The Institute first started receiving notice from government sources in the summer of 2015 that Pakistan was receiving specialized equipment for an extension of its centrifuge program at Kahuta and that a new building was being constructed there.

In 2016, IHS Janes in collaboration with Project Alpha at King’s College published a satellite imagery study, backed up by centrifuge-related procurement data, about this site at Kahuta.1 Although the report listed the site as a probable centrifuge plant, it also listed anomalies that pointed away from this conclusion and said little about the site’s intended purpose or ultimate enrichment capacity. 2 In combination with the Institute’s information, public information supports that more than one government has identified this site as related to gas centrifuge enrichment.

There are sufficient reasons to believe this assessment and investigate the site’s potential capacity for both civil and military enrichment purposes. However, determining its exact purpose remains difficult without more information from Pakistan or perhaps intelligence communities.

The facility, whether for military or civil purposes, will soon be completed. This timing is certain to make more complex Pakistan’s efforts to join the Nuclear Suppliers Group.


The Atomic Archives and the Future of the JCPOA

By Ian Stewart and Emma Scott

On 30 April, Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, gave a presentation in which he outlined what he claimed was a vast cache of nuclear weapons design information collected by Israeli intelligence in a raid on an ‘atomic archive’ in Iran. The video of Netanyahu’s presentation is embedded below. The US Secretary of State later also issued a statement about the matter.

Key Points:

  • The archive if real shows Iran keeping the nuclear weapons option open;
  • The presentation didn’t reveal anything about Iran’s past not already known, although the underlying documents might;
  • The presentation was clearly timed to influence President Trump on recertification of the JCPOA on 12 May;
  • It’s unlikely to sway European thinking unless something more comes to light.

The presentation (click here) fuelled an already fiery debate about the future of the nuclear deal with Iran. Some use the accusations to make the case for US withdrawal from the nuclear deal. Others claim the accusations highlight the need for the nuclear deal to ensure Iran cannot obtain nuclear weapons. Almost everyone believes the presentation and alleged new material simply highlight what was already known: that Iran had a secret nuclear weapons programme at some point in the past. If, on the other hand, the archive does in fact prove to be authentic, it will show that Iran was keeping the nuclear weapons option open.

The announcement of the materials comes at a particularly sensitive time. On 12 May, President Trump must again decide whether to certify Iran pursuant to section 1245 of the National Defence Authorisation Act (NDAA), which basically waives some of the US unilateral sanctions on Iran. In October, President Trump decertified the deal under the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act (INARA) citing US national security interests. In January, despite waiving the sanctions for a third time, said he would withdraw the US from the agreement unless the other parties to it, including the Europeans, agreed to strengthen its provisions in certain areas. Specifically, President Trump demanded that Iran allow immediate inspections at all sites requested by international inspectors, called on the deal to ensure that Iran never even comes close to possessing a nuclear weapon, called for provisions that have no expiration dates, and for US legislation explicitly linking Iran’s long-range missile and nuclear weapons programs.

Within this context, Prime Minister Netanyahu’s objectives, in view of the timing of the presentation, were doubtless intended to influence President Trump into withdrawing from the deal. His announcement, whether or not the so-called atomic archive contains anything new, will make implementation of the agreement much more complex.

Some of the complications include:

  • Determining whether the archive materials are authentic: Israel has said it will give the materials to the IAEA. The IAEA may then ask to visit the alleged site of the archive in Iran. It seems unlikely that Iran would immediately allow access unless the remaining materials have been removed from the facility. Even if they have, there is always a chance that the IAEA will detect particles of uranium or other materials if they had at any point been stored at a nuclear site, which would help to substantiate the authenticity of the materials Israel now holds.
  • If the archive contains new material as Israel claims, the IAEA’s task of reaching a ‘broader conclusion’ about the nature of Iran’s nuclear program during the first decade of the deal will be next to impossible. By default, a situation would then arise in which nuclear restrictions begin to be eased without the IAEA being able to confirm that all nuclear materials and activity in the country are peaceful in nature. Politically, this now seems untenable.
  • The archive materials may point to new sites in Iran at which nuclear activity is alleged to have been undertaken. Some of these sites may be military-related. The IAEA would have little choice but to request access, but Iran, however, has stated it will not allow access to military sites. An impasse could result.
  • Should the archive material contain information on clandestine nuclear cooperation with other countries, the IAEA would have to investigate. Iran is thought to have received some weaponisation information from the AQ Khan network and there have been occasional accusations so far unsubstantiated about limited nuclear weapons cooperation between Iran and DPRK. The archive material might well provide further information on either connection or on further, hitherto unknown, foreign cooperation. The IAEA would have therefore have to investigate.

What happens next?

Despite all of these points, the nuclear deal is still a solid mechanism to ensure that Iran cannot obtain nuclear weapons, at least in the medium term. The nuclear deal does have limitations, both in terms of the sunset clauses and the lack of clear provisions on missiles. The question for the international community, therefore, is whether to end the nuclear deal now or to use the time that provides to secure a more thorough accommodation with Iran. Parties to the nuclear deal other than the US appear to favour the latter course. The archived material is unlikely to sway the Europeans, who rhetorically at least, remain committed to the deal. President Trump will make his decision on 12 May.


Final Report: Typologies of Proliferation Finance

Click  here to access the report: Study of Typologies of Financing of WMD Proliferation

Disrupting the financing of proliferation (FoP) is potentially a key tool to combat state-sponsored WMD programs. However, detecting FoP is difficult. The majority of governments and financial institutions are unclear about what FoP looks like and how to identify it, so the tool is rarely exploited. This report describes typologies of financing the proliferation of WMD to address this issue.

The most comprehensive study of FoP to date was published by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) in 2008. This includes a list of 20 “indicators of possible proliferation financing,” including, for example, transactions connected with designated individuals or entities or with countries of proliferation concern. Since then, more information has become available, particularly related to the proliferation programs of DPRK and Iran.

Project Alpha has carried out an analysis of data relating to DPRK, Iran, Syria, Pakistan and India provided by governments and financial institutions, contained in records of judicial proceedings, UN Panel reports, and media reports. The analyses are summarized in the form of 60 case studies. They enable identification of common elements between networks set up to finance proliferation or to circumvent financial sanctions, and of ways networks may mutate in response to sanctions.

Based on the 60 cases, the indicators in the FATF 2008 Report have been modified and categorised as “potentially highly indicative,” “potentially moderately indicative” or “potentially poorly indicative” of FoP. The study identified additional possible indicators, including transactions involving individuals connected with countries of proliferation concern, the use of cash, the involvement of small trading or intermediary companies, and others. By illustrating different types of FoP, the case studies are intended to support the work of governments and financial institutions worldwide in identifying FoP.  They are intended to facilitate FoP risk assessments, to support regulators in providing guidance to financial institutions and to support financial institutions in complying with sanctions or other WMD controls.

Above all, combating proliferation of WMD by identifying and disrupting the financing is most likely to be successful when governments and the private sector cooperate and coordinate in sharing information. It is hoped that the FoP case studies included in this report will help this process.

Trade Finance and Proliferation Finance – Mitigating the Risks

Workshop Summary Report- Trade Finance and Proliferation Finance – Mitigating the Risks

Financing the proliferation of WMD is poorly understood and difficult to identify. Procurement networks hide their financial tracks to circumvent sanctions or other controls. Sources of funds,
which may be countries under sanctions, are concealed behind front companies or individuals acting on their behalf. Goods and materials procured by proliferation networks are generally industrial in nature and usually obtained from established overseas, often via brokers. Financial transactions are typically processed through the international banking system and usually appear to be related to legitimate trade. They may take place on “open account” terms” or
supported by trade finance operations.

In this context, on June 20, 2017, the workshop “Trade Finance and Proliferation Finance – Mitigating the Risks,” took place at King’s College London, UK. The objective of this workshop was to examine what is known about how current mechanisms for financing global trade might be exploited for the purposes of financing of proliferation (FoP) of Weapons of Mass Destruction. The workshop took place in the context of a study carried out by Project Alpha,
funded by United States Department of State, of current typologies of FoP. Participants included representatives from the commercial sector, amongst these banks, consultancy firms, insurance
companies, and others, and the government sector, including the UK and US governments, and crown dependencies.

The discussion took place under the Chatham House rule and was structured roughly into: challenges, regulatory expectations, possible solutions. The workshop aimed to

1) Review current mechanisms for trade finance and identify how these may be exploited for financing proliferation;

2) Identify possible measures governments and financial
sector could take to mitigate risks; and

3) Consider mechanisms for information sharing to support risk mitigation.
The attached report is a summary of main points and is not intended to be a comprehensive record. It is structured as follows: First, the main issues discussed during the workshop highlighted as the main challenges for the financial sector are described. Second, the specific
options for mitigating risks are delineated. Finally, a list of recommendations and follow up action items have been compiled by the workshop organisers and based on the workshop discussions are noted.

The JCPOA Procurement Channel – Status and Lessons Learned

[Cross-post from the VCDNP website]

On 12 June 2017, the VCDNP, with support from King’s College London, organised an event entitled “JCPOA Procurement Channel: Status and Lessons Learned.” The event was chaired by Laura Rockwood, VCDNP Executive Director, with opening remarks by the Ambassador of the European Union (EU) to the International Organisations in Vienna Didier Lenoir. The speakers included officials actively engaged in the Procurement Channel from the UN Secretariat, the EU External Action Service (EEAS) and the Islamic Republic of Iran. The event was organised under the auspices of the VCDNP’s newly launched European Non-Proliferation and Security Initiative (ENSI); Ian Stewart, who directs the ENSI, also participated.

The event focused attention on an underutilised mechanism of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) intended to ensure that trade in nuclear-related items is consistent with the principles and requirements of the agreement: the JCPOA Procurement Channel.

In her welcoming remarks, Laura Rockwood noted that, a year and a half into the implementation of the JCPOA, it was timely to consider whether the Procurement Channel was living up to its expectations. It was with this in mind that the VCDNP had organised the event.

The JCPOA Procurement Channel includes measures intended to ensure that while Iran is able to benefit from regular trade in the field of single and dual‑use items of nuclear relevance, such items cannot be diverted to support a nuclear programme in Iran inconsistent with the JCPOA. The Procurement Channel is run by the Procurement Channel Working Group (PWG) which is coordinated by the EEAS, and has seven participating States: United Kingdom; the United States of America; France; Germany; Russia; China; and Iran. The channel is designed to receive proposals from States interested in exporting goods to Iran. The PWG has 20 working days (extendable to 30 days) to consider the proposals on any one export good. The PWG operates by consensus and once their decision has been made it is sent to the Security Council for its final decision. The Security Council has five days to make its decision, which is then communicated to the proposing State in the form of a written letter.

In his remarks, Erik Marzolf, Senior Political Affairs Officer in the Security Council Affairs Division of the UN Secretariat, outlined that the JCPOA, was endorsed by the Security Council through resolution 2231 (2015), just six days after the agreement was reached by the E3/EU+3 and Iran. This resolution terminated the provisions of all previous Security Council resolutions on the Iranian nuclear issue and replaced prohibitions with certain restrictions, including on nuclear-related transfers to Iran.

He noted that resolution 2231 generated a distinct working mechanism which differs from that which existed during the sanctions period. In particular, there was no longer a dedicated committee of the Security Council charged with overseeing implementation. Instead, all tasks are directly undertaken by the Security Council and one of its members (on a rotating basis) acts as the facilitator. This year it is Italy, last year it was Spain. The specific role of the Secretariat is to support the facilitator and to report every six months to the Security Council on the implementation of resolution 2231. The Procurement Channel is a system derived and endorsed by the resolution and administratively supported by the UN Secretariat.

Mr. Marzolf noted that the Secretariat acts as the point of contact for States in submitting proposals to the Procurement Channel. He emphasized that the Secretariat is not involved in the substantive review of the proposals. States are encouraged to submit proposals through UN Missions in New York, using the templates available on the UN website in all six official languages. Once proposals have been received, the UN Secretariat is tasked with translating them into English before providing the proposals to the PWG for its consideration. Translations are usually completed within a 24 to 48 hour time period. The proposals are handled in the participating States capitals and the EEAS in Vienna serves as the coordinator. The duration of the review process ranges from 42 and 58 calendar days and to date averages 47 days. Once the outcome of the review is determined, the Secretariat informs the Member State of the decision of the Council. Mr. Marzolf indicated that all proposals submitted thus far had been processed in due time with consideration given to confidentiality.

Speakers (from left to right): Erik Marzolf, Laura Rockwood, Behzad Saberi, Klemen Polak, Ambassador Didier Lenoir

Klemen Polak of the EU External Action Service and coordinator of the PWG noted that trade with Iran had entered a new era as a result of the JCPOA. The Procurement Channel, he said, had been quickly set up, with the necessary administrative items, such as templates, available as of Implementation Day. The Procurement Working Group has met every third week in Vienna since then and is the only working group under the JCPOA that has regular scheduled meetings.

Mr. Polak also mentioned the need to balance transparency with confidentiality, given that the information provided through the Procurement Channel could involve potential commercial sensitivities. In the spirit of transparency he highlighted that the PWG reports every six months to the Security Council on its review of the proposals. Mr. Polak concluded that to date a positive trend could be seen and it appeared that the Procurement Channel was working properly and that the PWG had provided sufficient information and guidelines for States to submit proposals. He also noted that of the proposals received to date, most included items on the dual-use list, which includes manufacturing equipment such as for the automobile industry. Though the Procurement Channel is working he recognized that it is still a new mechanism and more work needs to be done, especially on a national basis within each participating State.

Dr. Behzad Saberi, Counselor, Permanent Mission of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the International Organisations in Vienna who represents his country in the Procurement Working Group, reflected on the functioning of the Procurement Channel from an Iranian perspective. He noted that the Procurement Channel was one of the last measures to be agreed on in the JCPOA negotiations, due to mutually exclusive principled positions of different parties which were only brought to agreement through creative solutions and flexibility shown by all sides. He clarified that it had taken some time for Iran to set up the internal mechanisms necessary for the issuance of the end user certificates required under the Procurement Channel, and further explained that Iran had now established the Atomic Energy Organisation of Iran as the certifying authority for nuclear items and the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Mine as the certifying authority for non-nuclear civilian end users.

Dr. Saberi noted that the working mechanisms of the Procurement Channel were indeed set up effectively, and with a positive working spirit, but that, to date, too few cases had been referred through the Channel than expected. He elaborated on a number of reasons why he thought the use of the Channel had not yet yielded a greater output. These included, inter alia: (a) the considerable time that inevitably had been needed for setting up the arrangements and working methods related to the Procurement Channel in (and among) the Working Group, the UN, Iran and other participants of the Working Group. He mentioned that before the JCPOA Implementation Day there existed other more pressing priorities, and that therefore serious work on the necessary preparations for the Procurement Channel began only afterwards; (b) the novelty of the mechanism, meaning that States, industries (both in Iran and in the exporting countries), banks and financial institutions would require some time to become aware of the new possibilities and learn how to use it; (c) the fact that cases resulting from commercial transactions could naturally take some time to negotiate; (d) uncertainties among the private sector about re-engaging with Iran, as a result of the “shenanigans, sabotages and actions” by certain governments and interest groups who have  retained their mind-set of sanctions and pressure; and (e) the fact that the appetite on the demand side seems to be less than expected. In this regard he highlighted that, for a country that had been under sanctions for a number of years, industries had had to learn either to indigenize the needed technology and become independent from foreign supply, or to modify their production lines to obviate the need for sanctioned items. Therefore, it will take time for such industries to gain trust in the efficiency and sustainability of this new network and to re-structure their planning to include items that may not have been available from abroad before the JCPOA. In his final remarks, he stressed the need for the Procurement Channel to be seen as available to all and as a reliable mechanism. In building this trust, more proposals could filter in through the channel in the future.

The overall sense from the three speakers was that the mechanisms were well‑established but underutilised.  Ambassador Lenoir Didier of the EU Delegation in Vienna described the JCPOA as a bright force in an uncertain era and commented that the improving Iranian economy was a positive sign for the JCPOA’s viability. Nonetheless, the JCPOA’s challenges were noted. Ambassador Lenoir highlighted that the JCPOA – and the Procurement Channel in particular – was a technically complex and politically sensitive agreement, which required daily engagement among officials. All speakers noted the positive trend of the channel but also were not blind to the current shortfalls. However, the common belief that the JCPOA and the Procurement Channel are a success and in the best interest of all prevailed, and the speakers highlighted their own entities serious commitment to achieving the results defined in the agreement.

Participants from the permanent missions, international organisations and civil society

During the discussion period, the question of whether the Procurement Channel was necessary was raised. It was suggested that the Procurement Channel provides a useful additional mechanism for all parties to maintain confidence that Iran, and the other members of the E3/EU+3, are maintaining their commitments to the JCPOA. Further, it was suggested that, given broader geopolitical uncertainties, such additional confidence building measures would be useful in maintaining the JCPOA in the years ahead.

Another participant emphasized the technical nature of the Procurement Channel process, highlighting that the Channel only looks at the technical aspects of the mechanisms and proposals. As long as proposals are consistent with the JCPOA and resolution 2231, there is no reason why such proposals should not be approved. Referring to the 10 year timeframe for the Channel, the participant noted that little outreach could be done in such a short period. Thus, in encouraging States to submit proposals, it is important to recognize that no one State will be “black listed” or shunned should a proposal be denied, but rather the State would be encouraged to re-submit a proposal that is within the technical guidelines defined in both the JCPOA and resolution 2231 so that it could be accepted by the Procurement Working Group and the Security Council.

In concluding, Ian Stewart observed that mechanisms like the Procurement Channel would help to sustain the JCPOA over the next decade, but that it was incumbent on the E3/EU+3, Iran and other parties to secure a longer-term resolution of the issues that the JCPOA sought to address. He noted that, with the newly launched ENSI at the VCDNP, the Center hoped to play a useful role in this context through the organisation of further follow-on events and activities.

More information on the Procurement Channel can be found here.

This event was also featured on the EEAS website here.

India’s Strategic Nuclear and Missile Programmes – A Baseline Study

Click here to access the report –  Alpha in Depth (India) Public Release – final

What is the report?

This ‘Alpha in Depth’ report uses open-source research to identify and characterise entities involved in India’s strategic weapons programme. Relatively little analysis has been conducted since the US normalised relations with India and lifted the majority of sanctions by 2005 – 2008. This report aims to update the record on Indian entities and will be of interest to government and private sector customers dealing with proliferation issues, particularly with regards to sensitive and dual-use items headed for end-users in India.

This baseline study examines the visible activity of 243 entities that have contributed to India’s strategic nuclear and missile programmes as key weapon stakeholders, unsafeguarded nuclear fuel cycle entities, defence supply chain entities, developers of auxiliary systems such as vehicles, and entities conducted dual-use research of concern. In many cases, entities are openly known to be  major stakeholders in strategic weapons programmes. However, this report finds a wider  and deeper network of suppliers and researchers involved in this system. The extent of this network is laid  bare in this report, and includes more than the original list of entities designated as involved in nuclear and missile activities by the US in 1998 – 2001.

The Restricted version of the report includes the full range of entity profiles sorted by Governmental department, major and minor industry suppliers, and entities conducted dual-use research of concern. An accompanying data file in table format provides a collated record of identifying information such as phone numbers, fax numbers, addresses and key individual names.

The Public version of this report includes the key findings, contextual overview, and informational charts.

Why does India warrant examination?

India is a burgeoning, de facto nuclear weapons power which is beginning to achieve force modernisation through a triad of delivery systems (air, ground and sea) designed to deter through assured retaliation.  In line with this, the Indian arsenal has been increasing, and has diversified to utilise highly enriched uranium, previously the product of enrichment facilities serving the civil energy programme and submarine reactor needs. However, there are multiple areas of concern, some of which might destabilise the intended path towards a stable mutually deterrent relationship between India and its neighbours. Furthermore, an acute nuclear crisis in South Asia would see India mobilise its science and technology potential to undergo a new massive expansion of nuclear capabilities (a ‘third breakout’).

What are the key points of this report?

First, India’s unique nuclear status mimics that of a Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) recognised nuclear weapon state. India has a waiver from the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), permitting trade without requiring it to have NPT membership. India has chosen to selectively engage with international non-proliferation agreements, such as the NSG, whilst eschewing others,  such as the Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty and Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. Continued special treatment threatens to erode the interlinked non-proliferation regime by demonstrating the viability of achieving nuclear weapon state status outside the NPT and the possibility of Indian reintegration without significant concessions.

India’s continued efforts to join the NSG are primarily based on a desire to secure nuclear trade for its ambitious three-stage fuel cycle (which allows them to harness thorium as fuel). Admission to the NSG will necessitate a delicate balancing act between India’s national interest and commercial value of on one hand, and the concerns of India’s neighbours about proliferation and the second-stage of the fuel cycle. The second stage of Fast Breeder Reactors could be utilised to produce plutonium, and goods provided under an NSG membership waiver could enable India to pursue nuclear proliferation.

Second, India’s strategic weapons complex has the potential to push India’s nuclear capabilities to a full spectrum of weapon systems. India has so far focused on the establishment and enhancement of its ground and sea-based delivery systems:  the construction of four nuclear-powered ballistic submarines for continuous at-sea deterrent and ground-based intercontinental range capable missiles. Beyond this, this report highlights that India’s strategic weapons complex has explored and developed additional weapons systems that could be made nuclear-capable should there be political will. Historically, periods of capability breakout occurred around India’s milestone nuclear tests (1974 and 1998). In such instances, the initiative of the strategic weapons complex in developing ‘technology demonstrators’ (science feasibility projects that scale-up to a potential system), has pre-empted political decision making to adopt such technologies as military capabilities. The development pathway of the Agni is one such example wherein the decision to adopt ground-based long-range missiles as a nuclear delivery system was taken after scientists had demonstrated the feasibility of an indigenous nuclear‑capable ballistic missile, rather than the science and technology sector being directed by decision making authority.

The process of Indian science developments taking the lead over policy direction is why India’s technological latency should raise concerns. Beyond the establishment and further enhancement of India’s existing triad capabilities, new technologies developed into  capabilities in line with the capabilities of major nuclear weapons powers would allow India to drift towards a ‘maximalist’ nuclear arsenal utilising both tactical and strategic nuclear weapons in a graduated escalation posture. For example, air-launched supersonic/hypersonic cruise missiles, tipped with low-yield nuclear warheads, and coupled with new fifth generation fighter aircraft  could be considered by Indian policy makers in the near future as a means to conclusively end conventional conflict. India’s commitment to ‘No First Use’ and to a maximum retaliation-only posture would be eroded by these new possible capabilities.

This report also highlights the possible erosion of political control of the nuclear arsenal. Generally, the Indian interpretation of a nuclear weapon includes the mating of the fissile material pit with the warhead and delivery system itself .Traditionally, India’s nuclear weapons have been kept de-mated and under the control of different bodies, necessitating an inter-agency system commanded firmly by a political body (the Nuclear Command Authority chaired by the Prime Minister) to assemble and deploy the nuclear arsenal. The Agni V intercontinental range capable ballistic missile is pre-mated in the same manner as the pre-mated ballistic missiles used on-board Arihant-class SSBNs. This will have a significant impact on nuclear policy and command and control

Third, India’s scientific complexes (nuclear, missile, and space) are poorly separated. The nuclear programme in India has been partially submitted to international safeguards, but this remains limited and allows India to exercise de facto nuclear weapons state privileges regarding the production of special fissile material. India has invested in new special fissile material production facilities. This large unsafeguarded nuclear fuel cycle encompasses a number of entities performing dual civil and military functions.

India’s space programme is dedicated to civil and peaceful purposes, and for the most part this remains the case. Instances of historical technology transfer from civil rocketry to military missile programmes is perhaps no longer an active concern as  missile programmes are self-sustaining and have achieved key milestones. An inverse technology flow, from military to civilian sector, remains a possibility. Military and civil scientists and engineers continue to meet discreetly in forums and conferences, which should raise concerns about cross-field blurring. Domestic students and international guests are frequent attendees and these science and technology spaces are a proliferation risk.

Fourth, poor separation in these strategic sectors should sharpen the need for tight export controls on intangible transfers and tangible trade to India. Whilst end-user monitoring agreements are in effect for some entities, this report drives forward the imperative for sensitive industries to adopt ‘Know Your Customer’ best practices. This report highlights the complex relationships of India’s domestic technological base, and provides information on the degree of complicity to the nuclear weapons programme.

Fifth, Indian entities are at onward-proliferation risk. The potential danger lies with the re/export of sensitive items and knowledge out of India to foreign powers. The domestic industry supplying India’s  strategic weapons complex and the country’s nuclear programme have reached sufficient technical maturity to export expertise and tangible nuclear and missile-related goods. The Indian government’s support for its domestic industry in the face of international sanctions and technology denial has continued since the normalisation of trade relations in 2008. A science and technology culture of self-reliance and import substitution has formed, and although India’s strategic sectors remain reliant on imports, the balance of domestic supplied goods and foreign imports will tend towards domestic provisions in the coming years. This is one compelling reason why drawing India into firm non-proliferation commitments would enhance international security for the longer term. India has taken strong steps towards implementing a control list (SCOMET), synchronising it with key control regimes, and adopting best practices for businesses; this effort must be sustained.

In sum, greater care and attention needs to be paid to the current issues with India’s nuclear power while also anticipating a future shift in India’s capabilities. Looking forward, there remains room for India to be drawn into firm non-proliferation compliance.