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Nuclear threat still hangs over India and Pakistan

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March 7, 2019 Posted by | India, Pakistan, politics international | Leave a comment

International Atomic Agency would require Saudi Arabia to have the same nuclear safeguards as Iran has

Before Saudi Arabia Goes Nuclear, It May Have to Follow Iran’s Lead, Bloomberg, By Jonathan Tirone March 7, 2019,  

  • Kingdom has yet to clinch enhanced atomic monitoring deal
  • World powers are meeting with Iran on Wednesday in Vienna.

“………Focus on Saudi Arabia’s nuclear program has risen in the last month after the U.S. Congress opened an investigation into the potentially illegal transfer of sensitive technologies to the kingdom. This week the International Atomic Energy Agency, responsible for verifying that countries don’t divert material for weapons, weighed in on what its inspectors need before the kingdom can start generating nuclear power.  

Focus on Saudi Arabia’s nuclear program has risen in the last month after the U.S. Congress opened an investigation into the potentially illegal transfer of sensitive technologies to the kingdom. This week the International Atomic Energy Agency, responsible for verifying that countries don’t divert material for weapons, weighed in on what its inspectors need before the kingdom can start generating nuclear power.  

Riyadh’s nuclear program is developing “based on an old text” of safeguard rules, even as it expects to complete its first research reactor this year and plans to tap uraniumreserves, according to IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano, who told journalists this week in Vienna that he’s “appealing to all countries to rescind” those old ways of doing business. 

We’re encouraging all countries to conclude and implement an additional protocol and that includes Saudi Arabia,” said Amano, who’s also in charge of enforcing the 2015 nuclear deal struck between Iran and world powers. The Japanese career diplomat has called the set of rules established by that accord, which U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew from in May, as “the most rigorous monitoring mechanism ever negotiated.”……

 the IAEA comments could strike a precautionary note among vendors lining up to service the kingdom’s nuclear ambitions. Receiving the imprimatur of IAEA inspectors, who account for gram-level quantities of nuclear material worldwide, is a precondition for receiving technologies and fuel. Without reaching a new understanding with monitors, Saudi plans for 3.2 gigawatts of atomic power by the end next decade could flounder. …….

Maintaining that level of IAEA access to Iran’s nuclear program is the reason that China, France, Germany, Russia and the U.K. continue to defy U.S. calls to abandon the 2015 deal and reimpose sanctions. Diplomats from those countries convened Wednesday in Vienna in their first meeting since the European Union established a trade channel to skirt U.S. threats.  

Snap Inspections in Iran

IAEA complementary access to sites rose under agreement with world powers……https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-03-06/before-saudi-goes-nuclear-it-may-have-to-follow-iran-s-lead

March 7, 2019 Posted by | Iran, politics international, Saudi Arabia, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Lithuania wants Belarus to convert its Russian-built nuclear power plant to gas

Lithuania to ask Belarus to switch nuclear plant to gas VILNIUS (Reuters) 6 Mar 19, – Lithuanian prime minister Saulius Skvernelis will ask Belarus to convert its Russian-built nuclear power plant to gas provided by Lithuania’s liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal and a planned gas link between Lithuania and Poland.

The nearly-completed nuclear plant has long been viewed as a threat to its safety and national security by Lithuania, which says it is not built to the highest safety standards, an allegation which is denied by Belarus.

Astravets, which is near the border with Lithuania, is being built by Russia’s Atomstroyexport and financed with a $10 billion loan from by Moscow. It expects to have the first of its two 1.2 gigawatt VVER 1200 reactors online this year and the next one in 2020.

It’s up to Belarus to make a choice: to keep on having an energy sector which depends on the policies of a single country, or to make a strategic change,” Skvernelis said on Monday, without naming Russia, the dominant supplier of energy to Belarus.

Lithuania could be a good example and a useful partner for Belarus,” he added.,………

Reporting by Andrius Sytas; Editing by Alexander Smith https://www.reuters.com/article/us-baltics-energy/lithuania-to-ask-belarus-to-switch-nuclear-plant-to-gas-idUSKCN1QL163

March 7, 2019 Posted by | Belarus, politics international | Leave a comment

South Korean President Moon Jae-in praised North Korea’s offer to dismantle a key nuclear production complex

Moon Lauds North Korea’s Nuclear Offer, Splitting With Trump, Bloomberg, By Youkyung Lee, March 4, 2019, 

  • He says a ‘partial’ sanctions lift was discussed in Hanoi
  • Moon says Trump, Kim should meet soon to reach agreement

South Korean President Moon Jae-in praised North Korea’s offer to dismantle a key nuclear production complex as an “irreversible” step to undercut its weapons program, breaking with the Trump administration.

In a meeting to discuss the summit last week in Hanoi between Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un, Moon on Monday lauded North Korea’s offer to dismantle the Yongbyon nuclear complex. He also called for pushing ahead with inter-Korean projects currently hindered by sanctions and said the two sides discussed the “partial” lifting of sanctions — backing North Korea’s version of events…….

Moon has endeavored to serve as a bridge between Trump and Kim, and has staked political capital on bringing peace to the divided peninsula. ….

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-03-04/moon-lauds-north-korea-s-nuclear-offer-splitting-with-trump

March 7, 2019 Posted by | North Korea, politics international, South Korea | Leave a comment

International Atomic Energy Agency chief again confirms that Iran is keeping to the nuclear deal

Head of UN nuclear agency: Iran keeping to nuclear deal,   https://www.foxnews.com/world/head-of-un-nuclear-agency-iran-keeping-to-nuclear-deal4 Mar 19,  The head of the U.N. nuclear watchdog says Iran is complying with the 2015 deal with major world powers aimed at preventing the country from building nuclear weapons.

Yukiya Amano made his assessment in a regular update to the International Atomic Energy Agency’s board of governors, confirming a confidential report distributed to member states last month.

He said Monday that “Iran is implementing its nuclear-related commitments under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action,” referencing the official name of the 2015 deal.

Amano added that “it is essential that Iran continues to fully implement those commitments.”

The U.S. unilaterally withdrew from the deal last year and re-imposed sanctions.

The other signatories — Germany, France, Britain, Russia and China — are trying to keep alive the deal, which offered Iran economic incentives.

March 5, 2019 Posted by | Iran, politics international | Leave a comment

Vladimir Putin signs decree suspending Russia’s membership of Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF)

Russia officially suspends INF Treaty with US, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/03/russia-officially-suspends-inf-treaty-190304143410145.html

Vladimir Putin signs decree suspending Russia’s obligations under key nuclear arms pact with US.   Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has signed a decree suspending Moscow’s participation in a key Cold War-era nuclear arms control treaty, following a similar move by the United States.

In a statement on Monday, the Kremlin said the suspension would last until the US “ends its violations of the treaty or until it terminates”.

In February, Washington gave notice of its intention to withdraw from the landmark 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), which was established as a major safeguard against nuclear war.

The move by US President Donald Trump set the stage for the bilateral pact’s termination in six months.

Washington accuses Moscow of developing and deploying a cruise missile that violates provisions of the treaty that ban the production, testing and deployment of land-based cruise and ballistic missiles that have a range between 500km and 5,500km.

US officials have also expressed concerns that China, which is not party to the pact, was gaining a significant military advantage in Asia by deploying large numbers of missiles with ranges beyond the treaty’s limit.

Russia has denied any breaches, instead, charging that it was the US that had flouted the pact by deploying missile defence facilities in Eastern Europe that could fire cruise missiles instead of interceptors.

Washington rejects the claim.

The collapse of the treaty has stoked fears of a replay of a Cold War-era European missile crisis during the 1980s, when the US and the Soviet Union both deployed intermediate-range missiles on the continent.

Putin has previously said Russia would seek to develop medium-range missiles, but would not deploy them in the European part of the country or elsewhere unless the US does so.

NATO has supported the US’s decision to withdraw from the pact, but many European leaders have voiced fears over the consequences of its demise.

China has also urged Russia and the US to preserve the treaty.

March 5, 2019 Posted by | politics international, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Despite U.S. Congress’s concerns, Trump is still pushing for sale of nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia

Team Trump Keeps Pushing Deal to Send Nuclear Tech to Saudis

Congress raised ‘grave concerns’ about the Trump administration’s past attempts to send nuclear technology to the Saudis. But Team Trump isn’t done trying. The Daily Beast, Erin Banco, Betsy Woodruff 03.04.19   The Trump administration is still actively working to make a deal to send U.S. nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia, according to two U.S. officials and two professional staffers at federal agencies with direct knowledge of those conversations. American energy businesses are still hoping to cash in on Riyadh’s push for energy diversification,

March 5, 2019 Posted by | politics international, Saudi Arabia, USA | Leave a comment

Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh warns on Pakistan’s readiness to use nuclear weapons

March 5, 2019 Posted by | India, Pakistan, politics international, weapons and war | Leave a comment

USA and South Korea cancel big war games – in a conciliatory gesture to North Korea

US, S. Korea officially call off annual military exercises amid nuclear talks with N. Korea, By KIM GAMEL | STARS AND STRIPES March 2, 2019

SEOUL, South Korea — The United States and South Korea canceled key war games in favor of low-profile drills, the allies said Sunday, in a major concession to North Korea days after its nuclear summit with President Donald Trump collapsed without agreement.

The springtime exercises known as Key Resolve and Foal Eagle, along with their autumn counterpart Ulchi Freedom Guardian, have long been the lynchpin of the alliance between Seoul and Washington.

The drills, which include computer simulations and live-fire bombing runs, also have been a touchstone for tensions as the North considers them a rehearsal for an invasion.

The decision to cancel Key Resolve and Foal Eagle had been widely expected after Trump reiterated his own antipathy for the drills, which he has called “very expensive” and “provocative.”

Rebranding exercises

A rebranded “combined command post exercise” will be held from Monday to March 12, according to a separate statement issued Sunday by the top U.S. and South Korean commanders on the divided peninsula.

Commanders and other military officials insisted they can maintain a strong defensive posture with scaled-back training…… https://www.stripes.com/news/pacific/us-s-korea-officially-call-off-annual-military-exercises-amid-nuclear-talks-with-n-korea-1.571119

March 4, 2019 Posted by | politics international, South Korea, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, helping Saudi Crown Prince towards getting nuclear weapons?

Jared and the Saudi Crown Prince Go Nuclear? https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/02/opinion/sunday/saudi-arabia-jared-kushner-nuclear.html

There are too many unanswered questions about the White House’s role in advancing Saudi ambitions. By Nicholas Kristof, March 2, 2019

Jared Kushner slipped quietly into Saudi Arabia this week for a meeting with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, so the question I’m trying to get the White House to answer is this: Did they discuss American help for a Saudi nuclear program?

Of all the harebrained and unscrupulous dealings of the Trump administration in the last two years, one of the most shocking is a Trump plan to sell nuclear reactors to Saudi Arabia that could be used to make nuclear weapons.

Even as President Trump is trying to denuclearize North Korea and Iran, he may be helping to nuclearize Saudi Arabia. This is abominable policy tainted by a gargantuan conflict of interest involving Kushner.

Kushner’s family real estate business had been teetering because of a disastrously overpriced acquisition he made of a particular Manhattan property called 666 Fifth Avenue, but last August a company called Brookfield Asset Management rescued the Kushners by taking a 99-year lease of the troubled property — and paying the whole sum of about $1.1 billion up front.

Alarm bells should go off: Brookfield also owns Westinghouse Electric, the nuclear services business trying to sell reactors to Saudi Arabia.

Saudi swamp, meet American swamp.

It may be conflicts like these, along with even murkier ones, that led American intelligence officials to refuse a top-secret security clearance for Kushner. The Times reported Thursday that Trump overruled them to grant Kushner the clearance.

This nuclear reactor mess began around the time of Trump’s election, when a group of retired U.S. national security officials put together a plan to enrich themselves by selling nuclear power plants to Saudi Arabia. The officials included Michael Flynn, Trump’s national security adviser, and they initially developed a “plan for 40 nuclear power plants” in Saudi Arabia, according to a report from the House Oversight and Reform Committee. The plan is now to start with just a couple of plants.

As recently as Feb. 12, Trump met in the White House with backers of the project and was supportive, Reuters reported.

These are civilian nuclear power plants, and Saudi Arabia claims it wants them for electricity. But the Saudis insist on producing their own nuclear fuel, rather than buying it more cheaply abroad. Producing fuel is a standard way for rogue countries to divert fuel for secret nuclear weapons programs, and the Saudi resistance to safeguards against proliferation bolsters suspicions that the real goal is warheads.

Trump may be vigilant (destructively so) about Iran’s nuclear plants, but in the Saudi case his response seems to be: There’s money to be made! When Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu raised objections to the transfer last year, Axios reported, “Trump and his advisers told Netanyahu that, if the U.S. does not sell the Saudis nuclear reactors, other countries like Russia or France will.”

Trump seems to believe that the Saudis have us over a barrel: If we don’t help them with nuclear technology, someone else will. That misunderstands the U.S.-Saudi relationship. The Saudis depend on us for their security, and the blunt truth is that we hold all the cards in this relationship, not them.

Why on earth would America put Prince Mohammed on a path to acquiring nuclear weapons? He is already arguably the most destabilizing leader in an unstable region, for he has invaded Yemen, kidnapped Lebanon’s prime minister, started a feud with Qatar, and, according to American intelligence officials, ordered the murder of the Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.

The prince has also imprisoned and brutally tortured women’s rights activists, including one who I’m hoping will win the Nobel Peace Prize, Loujain al-Hathloul. As Representative Brad Sherman, a California Democrat, has noted, “A country that can’t be trusted with a bone saw shouldn’t be trusted with nuclear weapons.”

There’s another element of Trump’s Saudi policy that is simply repulsive: the fawning courtship of a foreign prince who has created in Yemen the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, murdered a journalist and tortured women’s rights activists. The White House genuflections are such that Prince Mohammed had a point when, according to The Intercept, he bragged that he had Kushner in his “pocket.”

No one knows whether Prince Muhammed will manage to succeed his father and become the next king, for there is opposition and the Saudi economic transformation he boasts of is running into difficulties. Trump and Kushner seem to be irresponsibly trying to boost the prince’s prospects, increasing the risk that an unstable hothead will mismanage the kingdom for the next 50 years. Perhaps with nuclear weapons.

March 4, 2019 Posted by | business and costs, politics international, Saudi Arabia, secrets,lies and civil liberties, USA | Leave a comment

Cold War-like arms race is likely to follow the collapse of a historic nuclear treaty

Why the collapse of a historic nuclear treaty could lead to a Cold War-like arms race, ABC News, 

Key points:

  • The landmark INF treaty was integral to ending the Cold War
  • Short and intermediate range missiles were banned because of the short flight time
  • Analyst say it’s unlikely to be renegotiated within the six-month notice period

Last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Russia was ready for a Cuban Missile-style crisis if the US wanted one, referring to the 1962 standoff that brought the world to the edge of nuclear war.

Decades later, tensions between the two nations are heating up again.

Mr Putin warned that Moscow would retaliate if the US placed new missiles closer to Russia, telling local media that Moscow could deploy hypersonic missiles on ships and submarines outside US territorial waters.

The comments were made after the Trump administration announced it would officially abandon a historic nuclear pact that had kept nuclear missiles out of Europe for three decades.

Here’s a look at what the treaty is, what may come next, and why analysts believe its demise could lead to a 21st-century arms race.

The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) bans the US and the Russian Federation, previously the Soviet Union, from developing, testing and possessing short- and intermediate-range missiles that could be launched from the ground, as opposed to the sea or sky.

The treaty — signed by former US president Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in December 1987 — declared that “nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought” and took seven years to negotiate.

Both sides agreed to destroy a total of 2,692 short-, medium- and intermediate-range missiles with a range between 500 and 5,500 kilometres that were stationed in, or aimed at Europe.

The treaty is credited with helping to ending the Cold War.

Maria Rublee, a former US intelligence officer and nuclear politics expert at Monash University, told the ABC these missiles were seen as a “hair trigger for nuclear war” due to how quickly they could strike a target.

“You don’t have time to talk, to pick up the phone, the red hotline, to say what’s going on and ask if this is a mistake.”

Washington and its North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) allies claim Moscow has been violating the terms of the treaty by developing missiles within the range for years, but Russia has repeatedly denied the allegations.

Earlier this month the Trump administration declared it would suspend US obligations under the treaty, with the intention of withdrawing because of Russia’s alleged non-compliance.

The day after the announcement, Russia also said it would withdraw from the treaty, and accused the US of fabricating the allegations so it could develop new missiles.

The treaty is not dead just yet — both parties must give six months notice before they can officially withdraw — but Dr Rublee said the chances of the treaty being revived were low, although there was some hope.

“[The first step] is not going to come from the Trump administration and it’s not going to come from Russia,” she said.

“It would need to come from NATO because the countries most at risk are European countries.”…….. https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-03-03/collapse-of-treaty-could-lead-to-new-arms-race/10845950

March 4, 2019 Posted by | politics international, Russia, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

The possibility of nuclear war between India and Pakistan

COULD THE CONFLICT BETWEEN PAKISTAN AND INDIA LEAD TO NUCLEAR WAR? Experts say it’s unlikely, but Pakistan’s lack of a “No First Use” doctrine for nuclear weapons means it’s not impossible. Pacific Standard, JACK HERRERA, FEB 27, 2019 

When Indian war planes rocketed into Pakistani territory on Tuesday, unleashing an attack on what India claims were terrorist targets, it was the first time India had launched air strikes on Pakistani soil since 1971. In the 48 years since that time—when India entered the war that turned East Pakistan into the independent Bangladesh—something has changed between the two rival South Asian powers: India and Pakistan are both now armed with nuclear weapons. So, as Pakistan has returned fire, shooting down two Indian jets on Wednesday, one of the most important questions in the world has become: What stops this conventional conflict between the two nations from escalating into a nuclear war?
Since 1974, when India shocked the world with its surprise nuclear test of the “Smiling Buddha” weapon, South Asia has been a nuclear hot spot. However, like China, India maintains a “No First Use” doctrine, which states that India will only use its nuclear weapons in response to a nuclear attack. The policy was declared in 1999, a year after Pakistan successfully detonated five of its own nuclear weapons, deep inside a mountain in southern Pakistan. Since then, Pakistan has refused to issue any clear doctrine governing its own use of nuclear weapons. In other words, no one—outside of Pakistan’s highest command—knows what could provoke the nation to launch a nuclear strike.

In 1999, Pakistan’s foreign minister explained why the country refused to adopt a No First Use policy, declaring that Islamabad would use “any weapon” in its arsenal to defend the country. Today, experts believe that, unlike India, Pakistan could plausibly deploy a nuclear weapon in response to a conventional attack. Pakistan maintains a smaller army and less weaponry than India, and would likely be overwhelmed if the Indian military invaded Pakistani territory with its full force. Facing loss of territory and national collapse, Islamabad could decide to launch a nuclear weapon against India in an attempt to even the playing field………

.To this day, Pakistan’s nuclear doctrine remains ambiguous, in what many experts consider to be a deliberate choice.  ……..
Does that mean the current conflict between Pakistan and India could escalate into a nuclear confrontation? Commentators regard that possibility as unlikely. Pakistan first began developing nuclear weapons in response to its humiliating loss of territory in 1971. Thus far, the current conflict with India does not appear to be a land grab, which suggests Pakistan does not have reason to engage its nuclear option……… https://psmag.com/news/could-the-conflict-between-pakistan-and-india-lead-to-nuclear-war

March 2, 2019 Posted by | India, Pakistan, politics international, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Making nuclear summits great again 

The Saturday Paper, Jonathan Pearlman 2 Mar 19,  Vietnam: In Hanoi this week, Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un met for a second summit to address North Korea’s nuclear program. Trump revels in the theatrics of these summits, apparently overlooking that he is lending stature to a despot who holds power through mass enslavement, torture, imprisonment and murder.

“[You are] a great leader,” Trump told Kim after their dinner on Wednesday at the Metropole Hotel. “I think you will have a tremendous future with your country.”

Before the formal talks began on Thursday, journalists covering the event were advised of the expected outcome: there would be an “agreement signing ceremony” at the Metropole at 3.50pm.

By Thursday afternoon, the ceremony had been cancelled as the realities of trying to resolve this decades-old conflict overcame Trump’s apparent belief that a deal would flow from a “wonderful dialogue”.

The success of a potential deal will depend on detail, and on Kim’s predilections, not Trump’s jubilant tweets. This became clear in Hanoi, as the talks faltered over Kim’s demands that international sanctions should be entirely lifted.

“It wasn’t a good thing to sign anything,” Trump said. “Sometimes you have to walk.”

The Trump–Kim encounters, reminiscent of the great Soviet–American summits, are designed to be spectacles, yet the Hanoi meeting was quickly overshadowed by events in Washington……..https://www.thesaturdaypaper.com.au/world/north-america/2019/03/02/making-nuclear-summits-great-again/15514452007564

March 2, 2019 Posted by | politics international, USA | Leave a comment

“Never Recognised India, Pakistan As Nuclear Countries,” Says China 

https://www.ndtv.com/india-news/china-never-recognised-india-pakistan-as-nuclear-countries-2001316

हिंदी में पढ़ेंবাংলায় পড়ুন

“China has never recognised India and Pakistan as nuclear countries. Our position on this has never changed,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang told a media briefing in Beijing.

“China has never recognised India and Pakistan as nuclear countries. Our position on this has never changed,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang told a media briefing in Beijing.

He was replying to a question whether China would recognise North Korea as a nuclear state like India and Pakistan as talks between Trump and Kim at the second summit in Hanoi broke down over Pyongyang’s refusal to give up two nuclear processing plants.

China has been blocking India’s entry into the 48-member Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) on the ground that New Delhi has not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

After India applied for NSG membership, Pakistan too applied for the same following that China has called for a two-step approach which states that NSG members first need to arrive at a set of principles for the admission of non-NPT states into the NSG and then move forward discussions of specific cases.

March 2, 2019 Posted by | China, India, Pakistan, politics international | Leave a comment

Trump-Kim nuclear summit ended abruptly, with no agreement made

Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un cut short their nuclear summit,

The nuclear summit between President Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un has collapsed after the two sides failed to reach a deal due to a stand-off over US sanctions on the reclusive nation — a stunning end to high-stakes meetings meant to disarm a global threat.

Key points:

  • Donald Trump says the talks were “productive” despite the lack of an agreement
  • The two nations reached a stalemate over the US removing all sanctions on North Korea
  • North Korea refused to eliminate its entire nuclear arsenal, but will stop testing nuclear weapons

In a news conference after the abrupt end to the talks, Mr Trump said the breakdown occurred over North Korea’s insistence that all punishing sanctions the US had imposed be lifted without Pyongyang committing to eliminate its entire nuclear arsenal…….

Both leaders’ motorcades roared away from the downtown Hanoi summit site within minutes of each other after both a lunch and the signing ceremony were scuttled…….–  https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-02-28/donald-trump-and-kim-jong-un-cut-short-their-nuclear-summit/10859310

February 28, 2019 Posted by | 2 WORLD, politics international | Leave a comment