Posts Tagged

Nuclear weapons

In terms of material military power, India does not lag far behind the traditional materially powerful states. The country ranks among the top in terms of the size of and investments in its army, air force, and navy. Furthermore, in 1998, India revealed to the world that it possessed nuclear weapons. Yet, while India has sufficient material power to be categorized as a powerful state, the country does not always think and act like a materially powerful state. For India, more material power has not been necessarily enough to ensure greater international influence. Thus far, India can be accused of ‘arming without aiming’ in its quest for greater international influence. India’s Material Powers India’s raw military power is impressive. The …

Three years ago, US-Iranian relations could not have been better. Once declared part of the ‘Axis of Evil’ by then-president George W. Bush, the Iran Nuclear Deal signed by his successor Barack Obama heralded a new age of more constructive ties with Tehran and the promise of greater nuclear security. While critics raised concerns that Iran would renege on the deal, these fears had proven unfounded so far – the IAEA confirmed that Iran has complied with its obligations under the agreement. Nonetheless, the Trump administration withdrew the US from the nuclear deal. Additionally, Trump has re-imposed all sanctions removed in 2015. With trust between Washington and Tehran in tatters and US carrier groups deployed to the Persian Gulf, the …

Donald Trump surprised the world by accepting an invitation to meet with North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un. The announcement came unexpectedly, after more than a year of rising tensions between the United States and North Korea over the latter’s nuclear programme. What are the reasons for this diplomatic about-face? We can identify three reasons that have led to this development. The first is North Korea’s long-standing desire of building bilateral negotiations with the United States. The second reason is President Trump’s preference for personal and unconventional diplomacy. Finally, South Korea’s mediating role under the Moon administration has created the conditions to reopen diplomatic contacts between the two opponents. North Korea’s Quest for US Recognition Although North Korea has repeatedly threatened …

Over the last months, the escalating tensions between the United States and North Korea over the latter’s nuclear programme have dominated news headlines. US President Donald Trump has called North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un “rocket man” in front of the United Nations, labelled him crazy and insane, and stated he was willing to halt Kim’s pursuit of nuclear weapons by all means, while North Korea labelled Trump a “dotard.” Not everyone might like Trump’s colourful rhetoric, but his remarks strike a chord with many. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), or North Korea, threatens to turn Seoul into “a sea of fire” and to destroy the United States. Repeated rockets launched towards Japan seem like a preamble to a …

Yesterday, at around 3:00 GMT, North Korea conducted a third nuclear test. According to the official KCNA news agency, “the test was conducted safely and perfectly at a high level…with a higher-yield, smaller, lighter atomic device” (the full televised report [in Korean] is available here). The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organisation (CTBTO), located in Vienna, soon confirmed that something was amiss on the seismic front, with the detection of ‘an explosion-like event’ on the Korean Peninsula, near to the site of North Korea’s nuclear weapons tests in 2006 and 2009. The timing of the 2013 test is not unexpected and the US and China were notified in advance. Some will read into the fact that the timing clashes with Obama’s State of the Union address. Others will point to the anniversary of former leader Kim Jong IL’s birthday on 16 February,. The timing of such things is not a precise science, however, and a number of factors, political and non-political (such as the weather), need to be considered. In any event, for us nuclear wonks, timing is less important. What matters more is reflected in the current scramble among experts to verify and identify the technical details: the exact yield and type of device, as well as the political and security implications of the test, regionally and globally.

  In a recent interview with The Diplomat, Professor Kenneth Waltz discussed the advantages of Iran acquiring nuclear weapons. An eminent and lucid scholar, Waltz committed the error of trying to fit an incorrect piece of a puzzle into a coherent theory. His theory whereby nuclear powers have never gone to war against each other has, so far, proven to be right. However, trying to extend this fact in a mechanical manner into a future scenario involving Iran is questionable. To begin with, the leadership of Iran, as distinct from that of any other of the current nuclear powers, has called for the destruction of its enemy as a sovereign entity. It has made it clear, time and again, that …

“Until recently having or not having nuclear weapons appeared to be and was treated as a question of yes or no”, wrote Thomas Schelling in a piece called ‘Who Will have The Bomb’, written in 1976 following India’s first use of a ‘peaceful’ nuclear explosive (PNE). “From now on it will make more sense to describe a country’s nuclear-weapons status not with a yes or a no but with a time schedule”. When this was written, India’s first PNE was viewed by the international community as a lesson learned; it was clearly an example of sensitive technology and nuclear material for peaceful purposes being diverted towards military use. It was alleged that the Indian test had been carried out using plutonium from the CIRUS …

My Oxford colleague Blake Ewing makes an engaging case in favour of the UK pursuing unilateral nuclear disarmament — that is, scrapping the planned replacement programme for the Royal Navy’s Vanguard-class submarines, which currently carry the Trident D5 missile —  as a solution to the country’s fiscal travails. Blake and I agree on many things. The folly of cutting the BBC World Service, one of the UK’s unique sources of global influence, is one. The wisdom — or lack thereof — of pursuing or retaining nuclear weapons as a status symbol is another. The merits of avoiding doctoral dissertation work by engaging in procrastinatory blogging would appear to be a third. However, on the question of unilateral disarmament, our advice to …